Fado, which is translated as destiny or fate, is a music genre which can be traced from the 1820s, but possibly with much earlier origins. It is characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor.
The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade, a unique word with no accurate translation in any other language - Home-sickness has an approximate meaning. It is a kind of longing, and conveys a complex mixture of mainly nostalgia, but also sadness, pain, happiness and love. Some enthusiasts claim that Fado's origins are a mixture of African slave rhythms with the traditional music of Portuguese sailors and Arabic influence.
There are two main varieties of Fado, namely those of the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the most popular, while Coimbra's is the more refined style. Modern Fado is popular in Portugal, and has produced many renowned musicians. According to tradition, to applaud Fado in Lisbon you clap your hands, in Coimbra you cough as if clearing your throat.
Mainstream fado performances during the 20th century included only a singer, a Portuguese guitar player and a classical guitar player but more recent settings range from singer and string quartet to full orchestra.
The ingredients of Fado are a shawl, a guitar, a voice and heartfelt emotion.
The themes include: destiny, deep-seated feelings, disappointments in love, the sense of sadness and longing for someone who has gone away, misfortune, the ups and downs of life, the sea, the life of sailors and fishermen, and last but not least "Saudade" - one of the main themes used in Fado, that means a kind of longing.
Fado is probably the oldest urban folk music in the world and represents the heart of the Portuguese soul, and for that matter fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.