Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fado: the naked darkness of a nation

The Portuguese have a tendency to be melancholic. It seems to be an inherited (and ages-old) condition, and the country does indeed have a long and complicated history. 
Winning and losing. 
And isn't it always the losses that stay with us?

Listen to this. Really. Do it. It's beautiful. Raw. Emotional. Powerful. At minute 3 it really grabs you. (If not, check your pulse.) 

This is Fado. It is suffering and longing and heartbreak, and the Portuguese have it in spades. Enough to have dominion of a musical genre by its name. The singer is Carminho, a modern day Portuguese heroine (in both senses). The song is "Escrevi teu nome no vento," or "I wrote your name in the wind."

Interestingly, Fado in Irish Gaelic means something along the lines of "Once upon a time..."

There is indeed a sensation of a Lost Fairy Tale, I felt, in charming Lisboa and the surrounding region. 

One evening, while dining, I watched some parliamentary proceedings on the television. The gist of it: "We got screwed. What should we have done? What can we do now?"

A succinct (though biased) explanation of a complex economic problem is that the Portuguese were told not to compete with Italy and Spain for exportation of olive oil, oranges, other agricultural goods. Whatever the root, Portugal has been reduced, it seems, to a tourism-based economy. What a juxtaposition for a nation that once held such global dominance... a nation of heros that "discovered" many of the nations we call ours today. 

But enough of the tears already. After 10 min out on a Friday night I wanted nothing less than to hear Fado.

And there was plenty of funny to be had.... (next post)