Lisboa can be described with all the cliché of being a Mediterranean city in this “garden planted by the sea” that’s Portugal, however Lisboa is so much more than that. In a city in which we can feel the contrasts and crossings between the old and the modern, I decided on an Autumn Sunday that makes you remember Summer wander through the typical Lisboa.
I started in Mouraria. It was initially the Moorish neighborhood, now Mouraria is defined by a medley of nationality and cultures that makes it one of the typical Lisboa neighborhoods, despite it the most skeptics will think that this is one of the places where you can find an “alfacinha” – that’s how they call Lisboa inhabitants. However, Mouraria surprised me right on the entry of the neighborhood, through Martim Moniz, where I find shops from China, Africa, India, and probably from any other place in the world.
Thinking that I’m going to find the sequel of this world, I venture through Capelão street and, just after a couple of steps, I stumble in Fado, the most representative that the portuguese culture has to give.
With a photographic exhibition open in May 2013, I’m compelled to follow and recognize some of the most important voices of portuguese Fado – Fernando Maurício, Argentina Santos, Maria Severa, and the famous Amália Rodrigues – and I’m able to determine that I know almost nothing about Fado.
For a few moments, I think about following the photographs that teach me about the Mouraria Fado but, as soon as enter in the João do Outeiro street, the “tasquinha” – that’s how they call the most traditional old pubs – “Os Antónios” draws my attention. I decide to stop there and join the spirit of their customers, for that I ask for a glass of wine – at fifty cents and surprisingly good – and join the conversation on the street. I soon discover that most of my chat mates came from other Lisboa neighborhoods, but they do meet every Sundays In Mouraria for their chat and glass of wine. It’s here, in one of most typical Lisboa neighbourhoods, that Mr Duarte talks me into going to Açores “while you’re (I’m) still young”.
Despite being youngish, one of the most famous hills of Lisboa makes me puff and wish to have made this trip by tram – the famous trams of Lisboa. As soon as I can breathe again at the top of the hill, I remember why Lisboa is full of clichés: I’m at Miradouro da Graça, one of many places where you can see all of Lisboa with a beer on your hand and enjoying the amazing sun. Although I want to stay here and enjoy it, I decided that this afternoon still has stories to tell and I go to “Tasca do Jaime”, my final destination in the center of Graça neighbourhood.
When I enter this “tasca”, which is hidden in the middle of the main street of the neighbourhood, I’m astonished with the lack of space. With space for only five tables, it’s literally crammed, with all the tables occupied,the counter full and customers at the door waiting for someone to sing Fado. Dona Laura – or just Laura because she says she’s no dona – , Jaime’s wife, works there for 24 years and finds me a place on a counter that doesn’t have a place for anybody else. Despite the warnings, hers and from all the news articles that are framed and placed in the wall, she doesn’t tell no one to shut up so somebody can sing fado. After I listened to David singing, I spoke with him for some time.
David is an “alfacinha” with 27 years, an expert of Lisboa and Fado, although he just started singing last year, because as he says, before it was something for old people.Now he sings Fado everywhere and every time. While I’m speaking with him , I learn a little more about Fado and Fadistas story, about the ones that I don’t know much about, but he seems to know from always. He tells me the stories of the bully fado, the one that was used to be signed in “tascas” in a time in which ” after fado there was slash and then you sing Fado again”.
While we speak, I notice that, in such a small place, there’s a non stop of people going in. They tell David and the others that in the meanwhile surrounded us, that they are Fadistas, more and less known: “at Sundays they all come here to sing”, they say. Between them is Dália, the “Alverca nightingale”. Laura tells me that Dália, blind, it’s on Tasca do Jaime every Sunday to sing, and Dália starts saying that she sings everywhere, and she even went to Porto recently.
While I wait to listen to the “Alverca nightingale”, I listen to all the others that go to Tasca do Jaime to sing – anyone can do it, just say it, and know it. The time passes between Fado and stories of the past. I’ll not have time to listen to Dalia, but it seems to me that I just need to pass through one of the many tascas in the Lisboa neighborhoods, to find her singing. I say goodbye to David, that taught me, that the guitar and viola are the cradle, the fadista is the rocker, but the star, the star is the Fado, and I start to go down the hills that make LIsboa known, with the idea, that as Fado ding to us, “in the end we only have the memories”.