Saturday, July 19, 2008


Does the Portuguese word 'Fado' have any link to the German word 'fade' meaning 'dull'? I'm just asking because that's what I felt the music to be at last night's concert in the St Christopher Summer Festival concert in the courtyard of the Teacher's House in Vilnius.

The scene was set for a wonderful, relaxing evening - the sun was shining, for once (more than it's doing now), there was a restaurant and bar serving drinks, people were sitting at tables and eating, others sat on chairs, or me on the ground near the stage. The band, consisting of Joana Amendoeira (vocals), her brother Pedro (Portuguese guitar), another Pedro Pinhal (described as 'fado guitar' but effectively playing not much more than chords) and the bassist Paulo Paz were beautifully presented and generally played and sang well; though some of the singing could have been a bit more raucous and sexy, keeping up more of the tension.

First the progamme selection was not that great - do they not do sad songs in Fado? There were one or two more melancholic songs, but even a song about sailors was quite a jaunty affair. As a person from another sea-faring nation, Scotland, where songs about sailors are probably mostly close to dirges, what with the high death rate, this surprised me. But maybe sailing near Portugal is safer? Somehow I doubt it. It would have been nice to have a wider mix.

Then I was surprised how mainstream European the music was, and I wondered if the programme had been put together in anticipation of a northern European audience. But I don't know Fado - maybe I need to get a CD. The rhythms were mostly normal mid-European, with only one piece having a Habanera type rhythm. None of that excitement that you get in Spanish music. One piece had a really bog-standard bass line that you would get in any central European song, another ended with a really corny tierce de Picardie (where a song in a minor key suddenly modulates to a major chord at the end of it - Bach is famous for this). The only different aspect about Fado, compared to Central European music, was that all songs were in minor keys.

The audience quite liked it, though sitting still for almost two hours without a break is quite hard - not as hard as it is for the performers, presumably. I could see the head of a jazz performer hanging more and more as the concert went on. It was ok, but did not set the heather alight.


Helene said...

You need to get a CD. Real fado is instantly recognisable. I heard some on Pandora for the first time and knew straight away what it was.

It's nearly always about love with some longing and sadness. I guess its what sailors feel like homesickness. But the cds I have are all women singers. They tend to find way to do other popular songs in the same way which is interesting but not real fado. Try Cristina Branco's CD Ulysses or Mariza or Amelia Rodrigues.