Fado has just been given World Heritage status by UNESCO, meaning it’s protected as “intangible cultural heritage of humanity,” joining other unique cultural expressions such as the tango and flamenco. This musical style (which is actually more like a poetic recital) is strongly connected to the streets of Lisbon where it was born and has come to be symbolic of the Portuguese soul. Those interested in listening to Fado should look for the greatest Fado diva of all time, Amalia Rodrigues. She defined the style of the genre and has influenced an entire generation of young singers. The album to get is “The Art of Amalia Rodrigues” which should be available wherever World Music is sold. The queen of the new generation of “fadistas” is Grammy-nominated Mariza, and her album “Fado em Mim” is a great introduction to the singer and Fado music itself.
Not Fado but greatly representative of the sound of Lisbon is Madredeus, a band that received great acclaim and worldwide success in the 1990s. Their “Best Of” collection is called “Antologia” where you’ll hear their now-classic hits mixing the influences of Fado and modern folk. A former member has gone solo to great success, with his album “Cinema” having been considered one of the albums of the year by Billboard magazine in 2004. That’s Rodrigo Leão, a musician/composer with an obvious passion for Lisbon reflected in his music.
Also mixing Lisbon’s Fado with folk and pop is Dulce Pontes, a well-known name in World Music. Her biggest hit is “Canção do Mar,” first performed by Amália Rodrigues. You’ve heard that song if you watched the movie “Primal Fear” (starring Richard Gere) or the NBC/TNT drama “Southland” (it’s the theme song). Pontes’ “Best Of” CD is one of the top-selling Portuguese albums of all time.
To understand the relevance of Fado in Lisbon and on Portuguese culture in general, visit the Fado Museum whenever you’re in the city.