Traditional urban song and music sung by a man or woman, to the accompaniment of two stringed instruments. The Portuguese word, fado, derives from the Latin word for fate (fatum), and the fado's usage does not distinguish the sex of the singer. Traditionally, wherever the fado is performed, the singer, the fadista—who is often but not always a woman wearing a shawl around her shoulders—is accompanied by the Portuguese guitarra, a 12-stringed mandolin-like instrument or lute, and the viola, a Spanish guitar. There are at least two contemporary variations of the fado: the Lisbon fado and the Coimbra or university student fado. While some authorities describe the song as typical of the urban working classes, its popularity and roots are wider than only this group and it appears that, although the song's historic origins are urban and working class, its current popularity is more universal. The historic origins of the fado are not only obscure but hotly debated among scholars and would-be experts. Some suggest that its origins are Brazilian and African, while others detect a Muslim, North African element mixed with Hispanic.
   After the Revolution of 25 April 1974, there was talk that the fado's days were numbered as a popular song because it seemed an obsolete, regime-encouraged entertainment, which, like a drug or soporific, encouraged passivity. In the new Portugal, however, the fado is still popular among various classes, as well as among an increasingly large number of visitors and tourists. The fado is performed in restaurants, cafes, and special fado houses, not only in Portugal and other Lusophone countries like Brazil, but wherever Portuguese communities gather abroad. Although there do not appear to be schools of fado, fadistas learn their trade by apprenticeship to senior performers, both men and women.
   In fado history, Portugal's most celebrated fadista was Amália Rodrigues, who died in 1999. She made her premier American debut in New York's Carnegie Hall in the 1950s, at about the same time Americans were charmed by a popular song of the day, April in Portugal, an American version of a traditional Portuguese fado called Fado de Coimbra, about Coimbra University's romantic traditions. The most celebrated fadista of the first decade of the 21st century is Marisa dos Reis Nunes, with the stage name of Mariza, who embodies a new generation of singers' contemporary interpretation of fado. The predominant tone of the Lisbon variation of the fado, sung often in the areas of Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto, and Alcântara, is that of nostalgia and saudadesadness and regret. Traditionally, the Coimbra version has a lighter, less somber tone.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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