Lisbon, Portugal: Bairro Alto’s Fado Bars – Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide – Travel Bite

1. Intro Lisbon, Portugal: Bairro Alto’s Fado Bars

The fado is a traditional Portuguese style of music that originated in the 16th century. It was originally intended for use in the ritual of fado ballads, though modern fado is often used as an accompaniment to classical musical theater and opera.
It is played by a vocalist, usually with a string guitar, who sings in Portuguese and another person playing the accompanying instrument such as the violin or cello.
The song is sung in Portuguese, although it can also be accompanied by other instruments like percussion or accordion (usually during bars 2-6). The verses are repeated two to four times and the chorus three to four times.
The melody is complex and typically consists of a sequence of notes over which the vocalist sings one or more phrases until reaching the end of each phrase. The melody may also contain subvariations on each phrase that continue throughout the song, similar to what is called polka steps in European folk music.
Fado has been traditionally performed at dance parties with strings attached to an instrument typically referred to as “cafetim” (singing fiddle), “laranja” (fresco accordion), “café-da-manhã” (Franglais baritone guitar), etc.
A typical fado band will consist of a trombonist, sometimes with only one finger on his/her instrument (“mão de mão”, “one-fingered fado”), a guitarist, usually with multiple fingers on his/her/their instrument (“mão de mão”, “two-fingered fado”), a singer with two fingers on his/her/their instrument (“mão de mão”, “three-fingered fado”) and an accordionist joined by another musician playing other instruments (e.g., bass clarinet).
While most popular styles of fado music were invented during the 20th century, traditional styles have existed for centuries following Portugal’s introduction into North America in 1582 by African slaves brought there by Portuguese sailors returning from Guinea Bissau via Brazil. Fados that predate these African slaves were written down much later in 19th century Spain and become known as clássicos . Fados can be related to some genres of samba but are very distinct from them: more rhythmic than samba and less syncopated than Brazilian pop music; its lyrics tend towards poetry rather than prose; its tone

2. Fado music

Fado is one of the most unique and beautiful musical genres that involves the singing and accompanied by instruments of the Marras (the Portuguese for “mango”) family.
Fado Bar – Lisbon, Portugal.
The Fado genre originated in Portugal. It was brought to Brazil by African slaves during the colonization of Brazil. The term “fado” means sadness and is used to describe Africa-Brazilian music produced after slaves were brought to Brazil, often with a sad, mournful tone. The music was originally performed by African slaves and later developed into a style called fado by Portuguese colonists in the 19th century. Fado bars are found in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto neighbourhood which was originally home to Portugal’s Jewish community . Some people might not know that Bairro Alto is home to some of Lisbon’s oldest Jewish communities from what might be considered as an “old port city” .

3. History of Fado

Fado is a type of music that originated in the Portuguese countryside. It is associated with folklore, and the region has been known for its fado musical genre since the 17th century.
The Portuguese word “fado” means “song” or “song-like” and refers to a style of singing that uses hand gestures, expressive body movements, and rhythmic vocal sounds to express a range of emotions.
The fados also have an elaborate set of stories about love and relationships, which are often performed by professional fadists as well as amateur performers.
The Fado genre can be traced back to the 16th century and was first recorded in 1620, when Leon de Sousa wrote his “Oração do Filho da Mãe” (Oh My Son), which became one of Portugal’s most popular songs at that time. The genre was first introduced to Europe by Dom João V while he was in Lisbon, who introduced it to England through his patroness Queen Catherine de’ Medici. However, it was not popular until more recently when musicians began focusing on lyrics instead of instrumentation.

4. The Fado Bar Experience

In a world where people are starving for the arts, there are still artists willing to risk it all to create their art. In the Bairro Alto district of Lisbon, Portugal, a small fado bar imitates and enhances the urban vibe of old Lisbon.
Bairro Alto is a neighborhood in the northern part of the city. It was once home to many artists and writers who helped turn this area into an artistic center.
It is also one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon. Though it’s not particularly well-known as a tourist destination, it has plenty to offer visitors that they wouldn’t find elsewhere in Portugal. The neighborhood is where I spent my last two days while I was visiting Portugal this summer along with several other international scholars and film-makers interested in learning more about Portugal and its culture.
The two most important streets in Bairro Alto are Rua Padre Plácido de Sousa and Avenida da Liberdade (both named after historic Jesuit missions). The area is mainly populated by elderly Portuguese families who live on a modest level with no fancy homes or commercial centers.
This particular fado bar occupies one end of Rua Padre Plácido de Sousa (today known as Rua Quintas de Santo António). It’s located between Praça do Comércio (now Ponte da Barca) and Rua Visconde de Rio Branco (now Rui Barbosa). We were able to walk from one side of Rua Padre Plácido de Sousa out to the other without encountering any traffic at all; cars only appeared once when we went around Praça do Comércio.

5. Where to Find a Fado Bar in Lisbon

Lisbon is a vibrant place, with a culture that stretches even to the smallest of locales. It’s home to the largest fado bar in Portugal, but also to a few of the most culturally significant and internationally acclaimed.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both of these places: Fado Bar Alfama and Fado Bar Madeira. The latter is located in Madeira on the island of Madeira, which you should visit if you ever get a chance.
Fado Bars are very small bars that serve only fado music — an acoustic style of traditional Brazilian music related to samba (a West African dance) — in Portuguese. There are two kinds of fado bars: “bairro alto” (upper district) and “bairro baixo” (lower district). The older styles are more “bairro alto,” while newer ones tend towards being lower-class versions of bairros alto.
Fados bars have become very popular in recent years, so this topic is ripe with possibilities for you as a writer. On your own terms, I recommend exploring the following neighborhoods: Alfama (the heart etc.) and Bairro Alto (the wealthier end). Both places have restaurants nearby, so feel free to opt for one or another depending on what you want to eat or drink.
Keep your eye out for the most well-known fados bars around Europe and beyond; they could be your inspiration for writing your first book or article! For me personally, I’ll always be influenced by these two places from my visits to Lisbon:
Fado Bar Alfama has been around since 1975 (it was originally called Fado Taberna), but it has since moved locations several times like other great restaurants have done over time; it was last located at Rua do Comércio 12 in Lisbon until 2015 when it moved into its current location at Rua do Comércio 14 in Alfama district—in front of Madeira Square, where there is also an art museum called “Biblioteca Nacional de Artes Visuais de Portugal” where they have incredible rotating exhibits throughout the year featuring international artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí .
Fado Bar Madeira is actually just next door from Fado Bar Alfama; it was opened by Jorge Teixeira e Sousa

6. Conclusion

Bairro Alto, or Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon and home to fado bars. There are a few different types of Portuguese fado, but the most famous is known as bairro alto (pronounced “buh-ree-oh”). If you’re unfamiliar with that genre of music, it is a type of traditional, slow-paced song based around the improvisation of the singer. It has a melancholic, evocative quality to it and is often associated with Portuguese sailors who used to sing at sea.
Fado bars are small clubs that offer live traditional fado music, perhaps with some sort of dance floor or other entertainment. They tend to be very intimate and may have seating for about 10 people, usually on couches or small wooden tables with just enough space for two people standing shoulder to shoulder.
Fado bars offer live traditional fado music in Portuguese language accompanied by an assortment of local tapas and drinks. These bars are really distinct from typical jazz clubs where there’s lots of dancing and loud music (and sometimes even dancers).
As far as fado goes, it’s not typical singing and dancing like you might see in a jazz club — it’s much more emotional than that. It can be difficult to describe because many people don’t know what it means but they seem to enjoy it anyway. I love this site:  FADO BARS PRINTED BY THE MUMMY

 

You May Also Like