Joana Costa sings fado in Guarany Café
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We listened to fado, Portuguese sad songs, in Porto

We didn’t know much in advance what we were going to do when we traveled to Porto, Portugal for a few days, but since my wife and I love fado, we were sure we would try to listen live in its homeland. A short quote from wikipedia for those who are unfamiliar with fado:

Fado is commonly regarded as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fate and melancholia. This is loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade, or longing, symbolizing a feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage).

Fado in Guarany Café, Porto, PortugalIf you want to listen to fado in Porto as a tourist, you have three options.

  • In the Casa da Guitarra, a guitar shop, there is a one-hour fado show almost every night at 6 pm, during which you can also sip a glass of port.
  • In Fado na Baixa, a small hall dedicated to fado, there is also a “multimedia” concert almost every night where the history of fado is also presented.
  • The Guarany Café also often has a fado night. Admission here is free (while in the other two places 15-16 euros per adult ticket), but one must/supposed to eat dinner there.

We chose the latter for two reasons. If one has to pay anyway, we preferred to get some physical nourishment for our money along with the musical one. Also, we had already seen this place during our daytime walk and liked its ambiance. I recommend reading the history of the place, which opened in 1933, and looking at the old pictures in their photo album. .

We had a nice evening here, though not perfect. Strictly speaking Cesária Évora did not sing fado. She is known as the queen of morna, which is related to fado. So we both associated her voice, tunes,and pitch with fado. Therefore we expected something similar, but we didn’t quite get it. Joana Costa sang beautifully, but too high and fast compared to what we thought of fado. (Amável Carneiro accompanied her on Portuguese guitar and Nel Garcia on traditional guitar.) We managed to record four songs although the recording was not really sharp due to the low light conditions. As for dinner, we expected it to be more expensive compared to other places and our expectation was met. For drinks we ordered port, accordingly, and got excellent quality. We were given such a majestic, “old-school” service as if we had just entered an upscale club 80 years ago. It was a pleasure to watch the movements and attitudes of the waiters. It almost made us forget how mediocre the dinner itself was.

The music / vocals were a bit disappointing, but the experience overall wasn’t. We were in a good place at the right time and there wasn’t even a crowd.

P.s. If you know the titles of any of the songs, please share it with us.


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