Lisboa, Portugal. June 2012.
Fado. Translated into destiny and fate.
A music historically bound to Portuguese culture, Fado roots itself in the art of acoustic storytelling. I somehow found myself in a small neighborhood of Alfama located in the city of Lisbon. Searching through dimly lit streets dressed in cobblestone, we finally approached the doors of Senhor Vinho. A friend recommended this gem - a place where her family would trek to for an evening affair. We entered the Fado house and took our seats at a small table in the corner. Walking inside was like stepping into a grandmother’s memoir. The walls were lined with tile, adorned with a semblance of street lamps. A mix of old frames and decorative plates seemed to place me in the far ago decade of 1975- almost as if I had stumbled into the set of film. The lights quickly dimmed so that only three people were illuminated in the center of the room - two gentlemen sat perched with guitars, setting the backdrop for the tale to come. And a woman, dressed in black, with shawl draping tassels stood solitary.
The strings stroked a melody inviting her voice - and moments later the room was echoing with a crescendo. There is something quite beautiful about the power of the song - not understanding the language and letting the tones of the vocals and strings carry you through the story. Beams of hopefulness were juxtaposed with sorrow. A weight entrenched the artist as she clutched her body. The reverberations fought in dramatic conflict as the tempo shifted spontaneously. The vocalist harnessed empathy for her song. The room, still but simultaneously shaking with sound - seemed to capture the soul of the city.
I will go to back to Portugal one day. And sit in a Fado house. And disappear into Vielas de Alfama.