Experiencing Fado Music In The Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is an interesting place. It is made from small and narrow streets with many bars, small shops and restaurants. Each night they are full of locals as well as foreign visitors eating, drinking and dancing. If you want to experience the famous Fado music of Portugal, then this is the place.


There are several “Fado” bars in this area. The bars themselves change with the days of the week on a regular basis, so keep an eye out for signs while walking around. The Fado music is accompanied by a Portuguese guitar, and the song’s lyrics were originally improvised by the singer himself. But poems by famous authors, for example Luís de Camões, are often sung as well.


Fado has been compared to the Blues as a song style originated by ordinary people who pour the emotions of their hard lives into their songs. The origins of the “Fado”, which literally means “Destiny”, is unknown. It may have originated from the Arabs, the gypsies or the sailors. Some believe that it may have been brought to Portugal from Brazil in the 19th century. One of the most famous Fado singers, Amalia Rodrigues, believed that Fado originated on sailing ships that took sailors long distances from their homes and the people that they loved. “Lisbon Fado” has been very popular all over the country and has become associated with Portugal and Lisbon.


The early “Lisbon Fado” was associated with the “myth of Severa”. Severa was a poor bohemian singer who had a love-affair with a rich count. Besides the “Fado” she sang herself, their complicated love story has been a common subject in the “Lisbon Fado”.

Fado managed to cross the boarders between rich and poor and was popular on the street as well as in the Royal house. Try to hear some Fado music during your stay. Times are changing, but Fado still holds much popularity for the Portuguese.


The origins of the Barrio Alto can be traced to the population boom in Lisbon during the days of the spice trade. In the late 15th century and in the 16th century Portuguese explorers found important trade routes around the globe and Lisbon became one of the most important cities in Europe for trading. The market for spices like pepper and cinnamon was especially big, and the trade attracted a large number of foreigners and people from other parts of Portugal. As the city grew bigger, the already popular residential neighborhoods like Alfama and Mouraria became overcrowded and people started to move to the outskirts of the city as the Bairro Alto was then. You can see its ties to the sea trade by the names of its streets. It was common to give the streets names that are related to the sea in order to better orientate and attract foreigners. Some examples found in Bairro Alto are Rua das Gáveas, which translates as the street of the main-masts, or Rua das Salgadeiras, which means the street of the salteries.


Soon Bairro Alto was no longer a Lisbon suburb but made part of the city itself. It even became a neighborhood with aristocrat traditions when the wealthy “Andrada” family founded “Vila Nova d’Andrada” in 1513, an estate by the São Roque church in Bairro Alto. Their home attracted nobles from other parts of the city and the country to move to this quarter. Bairro Alto has even been the home of royalty. The Infanta Dona Catarina who was later to become Queen of England and the sons of the Portuguese king Dom João V have also lived in Bairro Alto.


Over time, the Barrio Alto changed from a wealthy neighborhood to one crowded with regular people. However, many of the wealthy families did not mind the rising social differences in the quarter and remained inhabitants. Even if the neighborhood today doesn’t seem to be a particularly wealthy area at first sight, the neighborhood still has its mix of rich and poor behind the doors of many residential houses.


In more modern times, Barrio Alto also has ties to the publishing industry. During the 19th and 20th century Bairro Alto was the principal area for publishing newspaper editorials such as “O Século”, “A Capital” and “Diário popular”.


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This content was written and provided by Georgi Dagnall. For further information, please visit http://www.Geogad.com

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