Forgotten Raiders and Lost Invaders of Portugal
A Virtual Tour of Portugal

The Five Most Depressing Fados, Ever?

Fado is the most Portuguese of songs, and often the most misunderstood. Visitors think it is a sad song, but that is a half truth. In fact, Fado can be sad and nostalgic, and that is cathartic to the listener. Fado is a purge of strong emotions. And, so in that spirit, we look into the soul of this ancient musical form, and find the 5 most mournful of Fados. These sad ballads shed a light on the soul of Portugal. Death is often seen as a just end to a full life, or as an escape from suffering and tragedy. And, Fado has no qualms about looking at death, as you will see. As one Fado puts it, sometimes death is everything, when life has become nothing at all.


26160443571_d48db8da4c_zPhoto credit: Paul Arps, Flickr

# 5  Maldição by Alfredo Duarte and Armando Vieira Pinto

Entitled “Curse” and made famous by Amália Rodriques, this is one heavy journey. It is a love song, but about a love that could not thrive or bloom – and so love becomes a curse:


What destiny, or curse

Commands us, my heart?

From each other so lost,

We are two silent screams,

Two mismatched fates,

Two disunited lovers.


For you I suffer and I die,

I do not find you, I do not understand you,

I love and hate without reason:

Heart ... when you get tired

From our dead hopes,

When will you stop, my heart?


In this struggle, this agony,

I sing and cry of joy,

I am happy and miserable.

What is it with you, my chest,

That you are never satisfied,

That you give everything ... and you have nothing.


In the frozen solitude,

That you give me, heart,

There is neither life nor death:

It is lucidity, insanity,

To read our very destiny

Without being able to change our luck ...


#4 Fado Hilário

Interpreted by KD Lang, this is the classic Fado of Coimbra. Augusto Hilário is the creator of "Fado Hilário.” This brilliant and troubled student died young, after having become the ambassador of the Fado de Coimbra. When Hilario died at the age of 32 in 1896, the nation went into deep mourning. This song is considered his ballad – and spoke to the youth of his day who were frustrated and unhappy with their nation, calling themselves the Defeated.


My old student’s cape

It is the color of the darkest night,

In it I want to shroud myself,

When to go to my grave.


My wavy cape

Made of blackest of fabric,

It's not a student’s cape.

It's shroud of one who is Defeated.


Ai! ... I want my coffin

Have a bizarre form,

The shape of a heart,

Ai! ... In the shape of a guitar.


# 3 Rosas Brancas

Coimbra’s Fado has many dark songs that speak of death, but few are as bitter as Rosas Brancas by António Sousa – a stark juxtaposition of the life and death of the students of that oldest of Portuguese universities:


When I die, white roses

For me, no one will cut

When I die, white roses

For me, no one will cut


For who has not had them in life?

What do they serve you in death?


When I die, white roses

For me, no one will cut


When I die, not even

On my grave a raised cross


For my Calvary it is enough

The cross that I carried in life


# 2 Povo que Lavas no Rio

This is a bittersweet Fado by Pedro Homem de Mello, and made immortal by Amália Rodriques – it looks at a complex connection between one person and society. Questioning the role of one, and embracing the power of place.


People you wash in the river

What do you slice with your ax?

The planks of my coffin?

People you wash in the river

There may be someone to defends you,

Who takes your sacred ground,

But never your life .


I went to the round table

Drink from a bowl that hides

The kiss from hand-to-hand

It was the wine you gave me

Pure water, wild fruit

But not your life.


Aromas of heather and mud

I slept with them on the bed

I had the same condition

People, people, I belong to you.

You gave me heights of incense

But not your life.


# 1 Prece by Pedro Homem de Mello

This is epitome of Portuguese nationalism, not to live, but to die. That in death, one becomes one with one’s nation – and finds a peace and tranquility that life cannot offer. Had to grasp, unless you hail from a place as ancient and complex as Portugal. And this Fado was made famous by the voice of Joao Braga.


Perhaps I will die on the beach.


Surrounded by a frothy bath

For amid the foam on the beach

It is like a pastor passing out

In the midst of his flock


Maybe I'll die on the street.

And it will fall on me suddenly

On a cold and moonless night

Brother to the stones of the street

Tread on by everyone


Maybe I'll die between bars.

In the middle of a prison

And that the world beyond the bars

Will come to forget the saudades

That gnaw at my heart


Maybe I die on the bed.

Where death is natural

Hands crossed on chest

From the hands of God all is accepted

As long as I die in Portugal.


Dark Honorable mention: Rua do Silêncio

I cannot look at dark and tragic Fados without a nod to the great Rua do Silencio, sung by Carlos do Carmo and written by António Sousa Freitas and Joaquim Campos, it is intoxicatingly dark, and simply just purges us of all sadness, as any great Fado should:


On the Street of Silence, everything is more absent

Even the moon flees, and even life is pain

There are no pledges of love, there is no one who lamented us

And the sun when it there goes there, it is to set broken


On the Street of Silence, the Fado is darker

And the shadows of a flower do not belong there, either

The street has a destiny, and it’s cold destiny

It has no meaning at all, as no one goes there


On the Street of Silence, the doors are all closed

And even a dream falls, without faith and without tenderness

On the Street of Silence, there are weary tears

On the Street of Silence it is always darkest night.


That’s out top 5, what’s on your list?


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