On our first night in Lisbon, we went to a tiny local restaurant. Devagar Devagarinho, for dinner and fado.  We got there around nine and were worried that the fado would never begin. 

Around eleven, however, they turned out the lights except for a couple of red-scarf-covered lamps that threw the room into a dim pink glow.  Two men with Portuguese guitars started strumming gently and sure-fingeredly.  They looked around at the crowd, a mix of old and young locals, talked to each other, closed their eyes a little ; they never looked down.  They knew the music better than they knew themselves.

The man who had stood behind the bar at the grill when we entered the restaurant came upstairs to sing for us.  The guitar player sang.  A short woman who also worked there took off her shoes and sang in a voice rough but breakable like the bark peeled off of an oak tree.

A group was there filming the real fado of Lisbon.  They shot the woman out on the steep stone-paved street.  Fado is important to Portugal - its name means "destiny" and it is their national music, part of the deep soul of the nation.  It is like the sea : melancholy and beautiful, with all its drama coming from its swells, the great crashing wildness juxtaposed against the sweetly gentle lapping of the voice as it trips from soft to loud.

A Portuguese guy who spoke a little English asked me if I knew enough Portugese to get the story. 
"No," I said, "What's it about?"
"Longing," he replied.
I told him, "I don't understand, but I understand."

A wannabe fadista,

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