Fadistas and Fado Artists

Maria Severa, who lived in Lisbon in early 19th century was the first Fadista in Portugal to be acclaimed as a Fado performer. She is sometimes accredited with not just the popularity but also the origin of Fado music. She was a prostitute that sang fado and also played the Portugese Guitar. Severa has been uplifted to mythical proportions, and there are plays, musicals written about her life; including the first sound movie in Portugal in 1931. Severa died when she was only 26, and gave spirit to this new form of music in Portugal. To this day, a black shawl worn by a Fadista is a traditional feature of Fado Music.

Like many many kinds of music, Fado also started among the poor people in the cities. Sung by prostitutes, heard in taverns, late into the night on dimly lit streets. Maria Severa made fado popular among the rich, because of her romance with the aristocrat Count Vimioso.

This is from the Shaw Festival’s musical about Severa’s life.


It is not atypical for a man to sing Fado, but it is primarily a woman’s voice that really makes Fado happen. Trained female vocalists and the guitarra portugese and the black shawl are the ingredients of a traditional fado performance.

Another prominent figure in 20th century Fado is Amalia Rodrigues. Amalia, a performer all her life, is another towering figure of Fado. Amalia was called the Queen of Fado and had a 50 year long career in performance. Amalia not only gave her life to Fado, but was also accredited with taking Fado to the world. She enjoyed an acting career as well as a singing one. 


Many like Mariza and Misia walk the fine bridge between making fado more contemporary and sticking to its traditional format. While Mariza has done a lot of work in taking Fado to the world, and making it popular throughout the world.


Maria da Fé, Hermínia Silva, Argentina Santos and Carlos do Carmo are some other prominent names in Fado.

Fado, like other folk forms is sung over the mic, and the vocalisation doesn’t reach up to the high ranges of the female voice most often. Stress is most often given to the expression of the beautiful poetry that evokes the duality of loneliness, and the landscapes of the cities this music came from.

Isn’t it true that as the cities of the world become homogenous, the music that was born in the same city, but 200 years back, that brings to us a strange nostalgia about our roots.

Fado Music from Portugal

First Showcase:

Fado Music from Portugal!

Brazilian and North African influences have shaped the Portugese expressive form of vocal and guitar music called Fado. Fado music, like many other folk forms originated among the urban poor in early 19th century.

Usually, Fado is sung with a 12-string guitar accompaniment. This 12 string guitar – called guitara portugese is very characteristic of this musical form. It is a derivative of the lute. The 12 string guitar migrated to Portugal through Africa and in the process several things were altered in its construction. The modern 12 string portugese guitar has a very vibrant, expressive sound, and Fado has a distinct harmonic language.

The vocalists  talk about a painful mourning – saudade – which is a portugese word that is hard to translate in any other language; and has a meaning similar to lament or sadness that is impossible to get over. Amália Rodrigues was one of the pioneering Fadistas of the 19th century. Sometimes Fado music also has bass or violin accompaniment.

Fado Painting

Fado music comes from Lisbon and Coimbra, which are two different parts of Portugal. Coimbra Fado is more stylized, but Lisbon Fado is more bluesy. Music takes the shape of the place it comes from. Lisbon music is more artsy and intellectual, while Coimbra fado is more folksy, but the poetic component is less interesting.

A popular new Fadista is Mariza, who has a brilliant, richly textured voice, with very expressive gestures.

is my favourite song by Mariza!

The ordinary things in life that there
Only the memories that hurt
Or make you smileThere are people who go down in history
the history of people
and others of whom neither name
remember hearing

They are emotions that give life
I bring to nostalgia
Those who had with you
and ended up losing

There are days that mark the soul
and people’s lives
and one where you leave me
I can not forget

The rain wet my face
Ice and tired
The streets that the city had
I’ve traveled

Ouch … my cry of missing girl
screamed the city
the fire of love in the rain
died a moment ago

The rain stopped and listened
my secret to the city
And behold, it hits the glass
Bringing nostalgia