Portuguese Fado

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Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999), was a Portuguese singer instrumental in popularizing Portuguese Fado, a type of popular song that the urban poor of Lisbon first sang as early as the first part of the 19th century. Much in keeping with the Portuguese spirit, the lyrics of Fado (Portuguese word for fate) often speak of destiny, saudade (Portuguese word for melancholy, homesickness, or longing) and love in its multiple faces.

Here’s two great fados sung by Amalia, for which I give the English translations:

Ai Mouraria Lyrics & music: Amadeu do Vale / Frederico Valério

note: Mouraria is a working-class neighborhood in Lisbon

Ah! Mouraria with the old Palm Street, where one day I left my soul behind for having had next to me a certain fado singer with dark skin, a small mouth and a taunting look.

Ah! Mouraria where that man whom I adored charmed me and lied to me, whose love like a lament in the wind I still carry within me at all times…

Ah! Mouraria with the nightingales nesting up in the eaves, and girls wearing rose-colored dresses, and traditional street cries of vendors and passing processionals and the severe, crying and melancholy voices of guitars.

Gaivota

Lyrics & music: Alexandre O’Neill / Alain Oulman

If a seagull brought me the sky of Lisbon from a drawing I once did, that sky where the gaze is a wing that doesn’t fly and fades away and falls into the sea, how perfectly my heart would beat within my breast, my love held in your hand where it so perfectly fits.

If a seafaring Portuguese sailor who has sailed the seven seas were the first person to tell me whatever I could concoct, and a look in your eyes filled anew with brilliance entangled itself in my gaze, how perfectly my heart would beat within my breast, my love held in your hand where it so perfectly fits.

And if, when I say farewell to life all the birds in the sky respond in kind and say goodbye, and you, my first and only love, look at me for the last time with that look in your eyes that is all yours, how perfectly my heart would beat within my breast, my love held in your hand where it so perfectly fits.