The Dark Fado House

We’re early. There’s nobody else in the tiny restaurant/fado house.

It’s an ideal opportunity to take photos without intruding on other people – the tables with their eclectic mix of couverts, paintings on the wall showing when the house used to belong to a fado-singing prostitute (a bare breasted woman singing along to a man strumming a Portuguese guitar), the toilets (that one is prompted by the waitress who insists I take a photo of them).

It also gives me the chance to have my camera settings perfect for when the fado musicians take to their seats.

I ask A to sit at one of the two chairs set up for the guitar players against one wall and snap off a couple of shots till I’m happy that all is good to go.

We work our way through pungent cheese, black olives, salt cod and chickpeas, octopus and garlic chicken before the three fado musicians, two guitar players and a singer, take up their positions.

And then the lights go out.

It is pitch black, or nearly. All the tables have a small candle which add atmosphere but no real light. The musicians are shrouded in darkness. I can’t even see well enough to focus; I’m chasing shadows. But I click away anyway, unsure whether I’m capturing anything half decent. After a few moments I realise it doesn’t matter, this isn’t what the fado house is about.

I put down the camera and sit quietly, enchanted by haunting songs that send a shiver rippling down my spine.

Margarida Soeira, Fado House, Lisbon, Portugal

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