Fado music, with it’s mournful melancholy sound, originated in Portugal. The fado songs of longing for loved ones heading to sea can almost be heard standing on the sea banks of Lisbon.

Or possibly that was Dave telling me to hurry up with the photo as he was baking in the Portuguese August sun. One or the other.

Monument of Discoveries Lisbon

Is that fado music I hear from Lisbon’s Monument of Discoveries?

We had a longing to hear traditional fado music during our trip to Lisbon. Surely it should be easy to ask where we might find Portugues fado singers.

Dave and I had a basic, and I do stress basic, language repertoire during our time in Spain. When we arrived in Portugal our vocabulary digressed tremendously. One word we feel strongly about knowing in another country is ‘thank you’.

In Portuguese that word is ‘obrigada’. Well there is a rule about if a woman is saying it to a man or is that a man to a woman and then it is ‘ obrigado.’ Or something like that. I could never get it figured out.

All that stuck in my brain was the word ‘abricadabra’. It really was magical that the kind Portuguese didn’t roll their eyes and laugh in my face. Just polite nodding and smiling, well at least in my presence.

Lisbon view from Castelo S. Jorge

Listening over Lisbon for Fado from Castelo S. Jorge


Many people in Lisbon can speak English but there are times, such as trying to find what I had become to think of as fabled fado, that some Portuguese dialogue would be helpful.

On our last night in Lisbon we found a restaurant where a traditional fado concert was being held in their basement that very evening. None of this ‘just for the tourists’ rendition. Excellent just what we were after.

Apparently we had  joined the locals for a very special night. The English we had heard just one floor up had now all but vanished. Food began to appear and the most amazing marmalade and Portuguese breads arrived. Through charades and our waiter’s skillful sign language I guessed ‘ Halloween’ for the pumpkin and orange marmalade! One of the tastiest treats of the trip.

Soup was next and I ordered vegetable. So yummy with it’s light potato base and greens like spinach and swiss chard. I sipped away at the steaming hot bowl for some time. After five or so minutes I stirred up the bottom of the bowl and laughed out loud, thankfully I managed to prevent an out right snort I was giggling so hard. There in my bowl were large slices of chorizo sausage. Yes I think something was lost in the translation of ‘vegetable soup, no meat please.’

Arco da Rua Augusta- Triumphal Arch Lisbon

Lisbon’s Arco da Rua Augusta- Triumphal Arch

With the lights dimmed to almost blackness and Fado singers belting out their ballads we clapped as loudly as all the other patrons. One of the singers began to speak in Portuguese and the crowd grew very excited. There were many ‘Ooooos’ and ‘Ahhhhs’ with everyone cheering and clapping at what was being announced.

You can picture Dave and I applauding along smiling and nodding at what might be happening. Two giraffes were about to come on stage for all we knew. We never did figure it out.

When the main course arrived we thought we had each ordered two giant prawns. What arrived in a bowl the size of a sink on our table was some type of measurement of two. Two kilos perhaps? Let’s say a gang of eyeballs and antenna peeking out over the giant basin enjoyed the fado music of Lisbon with us.

Lisbon Panorama - looking for Fado Music


For more information on where you can find fado music in Lisbon click here.

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