The Fado, Saudade and Joy, in Porto, Portugal

Cidao 1

Porto is slowly becoming my favorite place in Europe. I just feel so happy now, so in place, the days have been so sunny with breezes, the skies soo blue and next to me is Edu, someone who fully understands me and my whole journey. Someday I will tell you more about Edu… some of you have met him now, but he entered my life after all that had to collapse had collapsed, after I got rid of all the loose ends I had to close. He saved me from my most violent epilectic fit in Brazil. And he entered my life in my own house, meeting right on the first day my dearest friends, and then my closest family. He met my grandmother. And then he edited my book as much as he could. So if you are astonished why some of my emails reach you without mispeelings and other mistakes, it is always an indication that he is with me. And let’s hope this will be forever 🙂


Ok, I was not supposed to to write that much but my life has been like that… of being so exposed and explicit. and while my previous emails were called Around the World, this now is called Being in the World. I am tired of being slightly off worlds. Because my old desire to see people and cultures has not died in the hospital, what has died is my fear to be in the world and face it. I am here. And I am happy to be.


I received so many lovely messages that moved me enormously, also from people I had not heard of in ages. One in particular was from a friend I met in India in 2008 and we never talked again. She wrote to say she had always read me. It is a very deep and personal email that flooded me with joy and a desire to share my joy.


Here in Porto the people are wonderful. And now that I feel more in place I am able to hear people properly. And since Edu is like me and loves to listen to people, and is just as interested in others as I am, we do very little and yet it feels like we know this place since forever. From within.


We made a friend, Jorge, who owns a very special restaurant that saved us from starvation when the internet suggestions failed. We were searching for a specific restaurant that we couldn’t find and Zé Pedro, the waiter at Jorge’s restaurant, got out of his way to show us the other place, which was closed. We decided to walk all the way back because his friendliness deserved to be rewarded. We hadn’t even seen the menu, but ok.


It was the best decision we could have taken. Not only the food was superbe, but Jorge, who we did not yet knew was the owner, told us about his love for Porto, that he had been recently to Brazil, and he gave us an address of a place where we could listen to some fado. “It is not a concert hall, it is apparently a place where the locals sing”, he said.


So the day after we decided to see the place. We took another friendly cab driver who at first just murmured hello but as he got closer he began to shout to people on the street and I made a comment of how popular he seemed to be there. “Of course”, he said, “I AM from this neighbouhood!”


And then we arrived at the place. As I saw it in front of me I thought this is the BAR DO CIDAO in Porto!!!

Cidao porto


It was completely packed with old people, but not just. Listening to an old man singing fado, I was taken aback: the whole little cafe stood in silence while the man sang, some heads swang to the rhythm, some mouths followed the lyrics. There was no place to sit, and nothing really proper to eat. I imediatelly started to cry (of joy, even though I was hungry as a dog).

Fado here:


And then suddenly the owner, a lady with the strongest and most authoritarian voice in the precinct, would scream in between songs like a school teacher demanding total silence.


But the noise came from outside. Inside everybody stood sill listening and drinking wine, and beer and eating all kinds of fried food.

Velhinho e eu

During the breaks I could talk to the old men, all fado experts. One of them told me that if I wanted to listen to professional fado I should go somewehere else. When I asked about where I could find genuine hearty fado, he told me I could not find a better place than there, the Adega do Douro. He gave us a chair (a real treat in a place packed like that) and told me that the fado is played in only a few keys. A singer would come to the “stage” and give only the key to the guitar players and tell them what kind of Fado they wanted to sing (fado, fado canção, fado humoristico etc).

Edu Porto


But the main idea is that people write their verses (“quadras” or “sextrilhos”) at home and then come and sing. As I sat there, I kept imagining how much of this tradition was actually mixed to Brazilian choro. Choro is a kind of Brazilian jazz mixed with African rhythms like lundu. I thought, as i heard one song after the other, of how Portuguese Brazil is in its emotion, in its fundamental connection to the feeling of “saudade”.


The best explanation I ever read of the word “saudade” is a nostalgic feeling of the past in the hope to relive it in the future. I believe people all over the world feel saudade in one way or another (Brazilians say there is no translation, but Edu tells me the Germans have a word for it, Sehnsucht… and in English it is something very close to “longing”… ), but hearing the Fado yesterday I knew that so much of our Choro (which means “weeping”) comes from this longing. This romatinc longing for experience, for something actually lived, and not for ideas or ideals.


I sat in this lillte cafe feeling i was the luckiest person on earth not only because once again I had found the way to the heart of a particular culture, but also because I was not alone. For the first time in my life, I had next to me someone who could see that as well.


And so I made these videos to share with you what the real fado feels like.


Eventually we left the Fado to go back to Jorge’s restaurant (O Caçula) and then we spent the whole night talking to him, and in the end he offered to take us tomorrow to see where the real Porto wine, and his family, come from.


So, Fado is sad, is funny, is longing. Above all it is social interaction, it happens when people come together to tell each other what is happening in their lives and their deepest hearts.


If I wrote a fado today, it would long for all the people I met on the road, I feel saudade for all of you who are in this list. But my fado would also carry the joy and hope to see you again somewhere IN the world.


And as Fado can also be funny here it is the Fado Humoristico

1 thought on “The Fado, Saudade and Joy, in Porto, Portugal

  1. Pingback: No tempo do (M)ar | Descolonizando A Mente

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