Falling for Fado

“We have absolutely nothing to worry about. We’re both bigger than them, plus the one guy is wearing tight white jeans and a fanny pack. If anything happens, we can take them!” I whispered to my friend as we followed two young Portuguese men through the dark and winding streets of Lisbon’s Alfama district.

Alfama was my favourite part of the city and we spent a good chunk of time here wandering through the cobblestone streets with cameras in hand – although usually not late at night with strange men. One of the poorer parts of Lisbon, it certainly has the most charm.

The narrow streets of Alfama

Bruno and Diogo were two of Lisbon’s Fado singers, a form of music extremely popular within Lisbon. Fado music is usually melancholic and songs are about lost love and longing. We had arrived late in the evening at the end of their performance and were looking dejected after a few glasses of wine and very little music. Our mood fit the music perfectly. We first discovered these performers on our Urban Adventures Tour the evening before and were eager to come back and hear them again.

Bruno wrapping up his performance, just before we met him.

Sensing our disappointment, in broken English they asked us if we’d like to go to a ‘real’ Fado club with them afterwards to hear some of the city’s best performers. We had nothing to lose (these were two of the least intimidating characters you could find), so we figured why not? Using a mix of French and English (and hand gestures!) we quickly made two new friends.

We arrived close to 1 a.m. at what looked like an old chapel.  If you didn’t know what you were looking for you’d miss the place entirely.  A small group of people milled around outside. You’d never in a million years guess there was a club in there. With a light knock on the door we were ushered into a tiny, candlelit room. The walls were covered in beautiful mosaics, as is common throughout Portugal. Known as Mesa de Frades, this is apparently one of the top Fado Houses in all of Lisbon.

Mesa de Frades by the light of day

People were crammed into every open space in the room. Singers would go up to the front and perform two or three songs at a time, accompanied by two guitarists. The audience was enraptured with the music and we quickly understood why they loved it. A girl of about five was almost asleep on one of the tables and a tiny, toothless old woman watched the performers with a grin on her face.

Bruno passionately tried to explain how much the Portuguese loved Fado – how it was a part of them. Something he simply did not think we could understand – since we obviously didn’t speak a word of the language. We were the only English speakers in the bar, which made the experience all the more unique. The music wrapped up around 3 a.m. and our group expanded before heading off to the next bar. For some of them, the night was just getting under way. With each glass of wine consumed (the Portguese love their wine!), it got easier and easier to talk to our new friends. Around 5 a.m. they put us in a cab and gave the driver directions back to our hotel. They were the perfect gentlemen. We stumbled into the hotel exhausted and the sounds of Fado lulled me to sleep.

Lisbon by night

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About AdventuressAbroad

adventure seeker.traveling fanatic.food lover.occasional blabbermouth.travel-based PR professional.

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2 Comments on “Falling for Fado”

  1. restlessjo Says:

    What a brilliant experience! I really like Fado but in the Algarve, where I have a home, it’s not so easy to find the “real deal” unless you go to a festival.
    I followed you here from Two Black Dogs by the way. We were both awarded Kreativ Blogger awards and I’m just getting round to saying “hi” to the other nominees. Looks like you have a fun life!

    Reply

    • AdventuressAbroad Says:

      Great connecting with you Jo! I wish I’d made it to the Algarve, as I hear it is simply beautiful. I guess it just means I’ll have to make a return trip to Portugal! My Fado experience was really special, probably one of my most memorable moments from the trip.

      Reply

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