Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul and maybe the world’s oldest urban folk music. Some say it started at sea as the sad, melodic songs coaxed from the rolling waves by homesick sailors and fishermen or maybe by the poor on the streets of Lisbon. Whatever its origins the themes have remained constant: destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair. Now it is a fixture in the everyday life of Lisbon’s working class and played for pleasure but also to relieve the pain of life.
There are fado houses and so called “revistas”, a popular genre of “vaudeville” in Lisbon and since we had our local friends, Helena and Luis as hosts and guides when visiting the city, we had our Fado evening at one of the best; Café Luso in Bairro Alto:
Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #1 by RennyBA

The traditional accompaniment for the singers is a Portuguese guitar = guitarra, a 12-stringed instrument (left in the pic below), and a bass guitar (right), or viola. Sometimes a second acoustic guitar (middle) is added like when we had this fantastic music adventure this evening:
Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #3 by RennyBA

The essential element of Fado music is saudade, a Portuguese word that translates roughly as longing, or nostalgia for unrealized dreams that speaks of an undefined yearning that can’t be satisfied. Like other forms of folk music such as American blues, Argentine tango or Greek rebetika, it’s hard to explain – it must be felt and experienced – and the performers must have the soul to transmit that feeling. That’s why my wife DianeCA and I are so thankful for having local friends to take us a place like this – I hope my explanation and these pics give you an idea:
Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #8 by RennyBA

Fado can be performed by men or women, although many aficionados prefer the raw emotion of the female Fadista. Dressed in black with a shawl draped over her shoulders, a Fadista stands in front of the musicians and communicates through gesture and facial expressions (click pics to bigify & enjoy):
Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #4 by RennyBA Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #6 by RennyBA

Café Luso gives gourmet adventures too:
Even if this special traditional music adventure was the main objective, Café Luso had excellent food and wine. I believe my regular readers would feel something was missing if I didn’t share the meal – so here we go:
Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #9 by RennyBA Portuguese Fado music at Luso Cafe in Lisbon #10 by RennyBA
Main course: “Wild Magret” (magret of duck in a sauce of orannge and wild berries on a celery bed with wasabi and sauté leeks)
Dessert: Puff-Pastry of “Sericaia” with Plum Jelly of Elvas – DOP – and Syrup of Lime and Lemon

This evening was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Romantic, inspiring, and delicious to all the senses, we are especially grateful for sharing it with good friends who know the music and the culture. Discussing the singers and how they were different from each other, and what each ones special style was added to the experience and helped us to learn a lot. We were so inspired we even bought a CD from one of the singers so we can relive the memories. Hope you are enjoying our trip to Lisbon. If you have experienced Fado or something similar I hope you will share with us in a comment!


  1. This was by far the most romantic dinner I had ever experienced. The atmosphere was warm and full of emotion. Thanks to Helene & Luis for bringing us here!

  2. How wonderful. I love to have meals such as this. Hard to find in New Hampshire. I think the last place that evenb came close was in Prague.

  3. It was really a wonderfull evening and a great pleasure to ourselves sharing it with both of you, dear friends!

  4. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience. I now have another addition to my ever-growing list of “things to see and do”.

  5. I love fado! It’s so nostalgic but beautiful at the same time. It’s the heart of Portugal :-)

  6. I really need to give Fado a try! I mean listen to it… I may not understand it but looking at the photos, these guys are full of emotional spirit!

    Renny, your dinner is always fancy :) it’s a good good life!

    btw, maybe you can give your Nokia a try to record the music next time and share it here :) installed a plugins (playable mp3 format) on your wordpress. If you need a suggestion on the plugins, i’m at your service.

    Would you like a music to go with your meal sir? hahahahah

    • I thought of recording of course, but it was prohibited (and I wanted to respect that). You know, I often use my Nokia to shoot a vid and even stream it online to my Qik account :-)

  7. Fado rocks! Can’t go to Portugal without listening to Fado. Yes, the pics really shows the emotions. We had one of our most romantic moments in our lives during a Fado – the moment that we realized exactly how DEEP our love for each other is… ah…. suck a loaded moment…. *Dreamy eyes*

  8. Sounds like an awesome experience!

  9. It sounds like Diane has said it all, Renny. I’ll take her word for it. :)

  10. I can see that both you and Diane are having a great time and I suppose this is really soaking into their culture. Absolutely wonderful :D

  11. I had so much to learn for my theater I hadn’t the time blogging and now I discover the marvelous time you had with Luid and Helena!!!

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