I was 11 or 12 years old in 1969, when I first heard the music I’d later learn was called ‘the blues.’ It was BB King singing ‘The Thrill is Gone.’ I still remember it because I’d had no forewarning of what to expect and no idea King’s voice and guitar would foster a lifelong love of the blues in me. What I did know at a dead certainty was that BB King was unlike any other musician I’d ever seen, his music unlike any other I’d ever heard. Watching him that day blew my young and impressionable mind.
What is it called when you’re introduced to something out of nowhere? And what do you call it when that something unexpected crawls deep inside and stays with you forever?
You might call it fate or, in Portuguese, fado.
Fado is a Portuguese style of music that goes back at least 200 years. And, like the American ‘blues,’ it often deals with the life of the poor, human emotion, heartbreak and loss. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s music of the people.
I first stumbled on it being sung by street-corner musicians on a stairway leading up from a well-traveled public square in Lisbon. I still remember being completely transfixed, almost physically unable to break myself away.
Here’s a short video that gives some sense of the experience. But be careful; fado may stay with you a very long time. You’ve been warned.