Tuesday, July 23: Tonight I stroll not far from my hotel in Bairro Alto to Café LUSO, a Fado House established in 1927.
In the 1930s, the old cellars and stables of the Palace Brito Freire, a 17th century manor house that endured the devastating earthquake of 1755, were refurbished into a show room with restaurant; its arched vaults offer unique acoustics. From the first decades of the 20th century, Café LUSO reached such notoriety that it was known as the “Cathedral of Fado”.
The show, running between 8.30 and 10 PM, is a display of regional folk dances and singing alternating with fado singers and players. At the end of the show, all together, they all sing the Café LUSO hymn.
The Folklore group wears real costumes that typify the various regions of Portugal.
Fado arrived in Lisbon by way of Portuguese navigators and other travelers. Despite the many influences on Fado, as a result of the Portuguese diaspora, it was clearly identified since the 19th century as a genuine national song.
The voice is accompanied by the Portuguese guitar and viola, but also other instruments such as contrabass, piano, bass and cello.
Black is prevalent on the apparel, feminine and masculine; the use of black clothes visually emphasizes the sadness and nostalgia, overwhelming feelings in traditional fado. The female singer often uses a shawl that composes the figure with meaning; this ornament can be dashing and rich.
Fado is a musical genre that can only be explained as an old lament over the threats that all of us go through life, with episodes that can be painful and explain our mortality.
It covers life, love or disdain, graces or disgraces, loss and “saudade”, the very Portuguese word synonymous with longing and missing.
Obviously, Fado does not have one single style of interpretation.
I love the evening here at Café LUSO, even though it is a tourist place, bursting with tables of Chinese people. I am a little disappointed in the ratio of folklore dances to fado; it seems the folklore dances make up the majority of the show, with only a few soulful fado songs.
The menu is very limited and nothing special at all. And of course it’s expensive. Oh well, maybe next time I go to Lisbon, I can find a small, off-the-beaten track fado house, where the locals go.
For more information, check out: Café LUSO