Fado in Portugal

Music and Portugal go together like siamese twins.

One is called Portugal and the other Fado. For a modest and relatively unknown country as Portugal fado quite famous, which probably has to do with the quality of the music.

The most important characteristic of the music is the soul.

The soul of the people


The soul of the music. The soul of life. The soul of love and suffering. That music expresses emotion. Feeling.

Music is in all layers of society. Not in a mundane way. You don’t hear music everywhere, there are a lot of silent shops and supermarkets, people don’t turn on the radio at 7am, you also don’t see many people walking around in the village with earplugs.

It is not used to fill the silence


That is the role of the television, which is on everywhere you go. My conclusion: music is to precious to be used for such a thing. 

In every village there are parties in the summer

Everywhere there is something. A saint is usually still a good excuse, São João, São Martinho, São Mateus, and all kinds of catholic “holy days”.  I don’t know them all, because locally there’s always another one to discover, which legitimises and blesses the celebration. There’s always a band.

Concerts always have heavy attendance and people sing along spontaneously, without shame, without faltering from beginning to end.

I first experienced it at a Marisa concert, that was organised by the Camara Municipal de Soure.  

Imagine, an international star, that comes out of nowhere to sing at the village square!

She stood there completely relaxed on the podium, talked to the audience as if she were their neighbour and sang a beautiful song, along with the entire audience. They knew all the lyrics, from beginning to end! Impressive, enchanting.

I find it moving when a large group of people all sing together. Endearing, touching, beautiful!

At a fado evening this can happen as well, but then you have to be willing to give up some of your sleep and go see real fado. In Coimbra at the cafe Diligiência, it starts at midnight.

For tourist they now have a fado theater near the stair of Se Velha: they have a performance every hour beginning at 6 in the evening till about 10. Also real fado, I’ve been told, even if it’s at an odd time. It’s like a rooster, crowing at two in the afternoon. That’s odd. Or having a tough drink with breakfast. You get my point. 

In the Diligencia it’s messy, smokey, nobody remains quiet and then someone gets up and starts singing. Going into it with heart and soul.

In Coimbra it’s traditionally the men who sing fado

Portugal is a country which likes its traditions, although this is an anachronism, a living museum. Once that was all a reality, part of daily life. 

Fado however is not the only music that interests the Portuguese. They have their own popular singers, their idols. They also have Ranchos Folcloricos who reenact traditional dance in costume of the time during the village festivals. These occur mostly in the afternoon.

There’s still people who are interested in these events, but they are no longer prime time. There is also a different kind of musician, the ones you never heard of but play music to which you can’t keep your legs still.

The last time I was in Coimbra I saw a group of conservatorium students, in their typical black garb

One even had the traditional cap on. They stood close to our terrace, it was a hot day, so it was pleasant to hear their performance from a comfortable spot. There wasn’t a large audience, so we stayed and watched. From time to time a song was recognised and the public would sing along. I don’t think you would see this in the Netherlands, certainly not on the streets of a city. 

So suddenly you’re sitting there with tears in your eyes because a group of students are singing and playing, surrounded by a group of people who are singing along.

It’s something you will probably experience during a stay in Portugal. In every city there is something to do: but if you can, find out if there’s a village festival and sacrifice some of your sleep. Go there!

Go and dance along with the others. Such a typical Portuguese experience is something you have to witness at least once!