Fado - Portugal's national music - has been given UNESCO World Immaterial Heritage Status. Hurrah to that!
I sometimes wonder if you have to be Portuguese to get it. It certainly embodies a very particularly Portuguese way of viewing the world. The name Fado itself simply means fate, so that gives you an idea of where it's coming from. It's a melancholy type of music/song that tends to be all about what has been lost. Sounds like a bummer, doesn't it? Well, it's actually astoundingly beautiful coming from the right vocal chords and the dextrous fingers of a master of the Portuguese guitar (similar to an onion-shaped mandolin). A good Fado will make you tingle all over; there's something guttural and primeval about it.
On a trip to Lisbon a visit to a Fado venue is a must. The best, in my opinion, are those where amateurs get up and sing. This can make the quality a bit hit-and-miss but that's also part of the charm and makes the good ones all the more worth the wait. Try Tasca do Chico in the Bairro Alto neighbourhood or Tasca do Jaime in the Graça neighbourhood for an authentic and far cheaper experience than the Fado houses catering for tourists. Tasca do Chico for a late night and Tasca do Jaime for Fado in the afternoon (very unusual).
The most famous of Portugal's Fado singers was Amalia Rodrigues and though she died in 1999, she is considered a national treasure. Here she is at her best:
More recently the most widely-acclaimed Fado singer is Mariza. And here she is at her haunting best:
make sure to listen at least as far as 01:25. I promise it's worth it.