Meet Marla Amastor, the resident fadista at La Tasca Restaurant where Nina and I celebrated Valentine’s Day. I wrote about our outing with Tapas and Fado yesterday and promised to “review” the second part of our date that consisted of the performance. Go there first and read about the Tapas if you haven’t already.
The Youtube clip I embedded above (although not recorded Saturday night from La Tasca) is a recording of the first song that Marla sang, becoming the first live fado song that I had the privilege to hear.
The song is entitled “Recusa” or Refusal and is a lamentation of being known as a fado singer if it means to live a life of regret and sadness and darkness. Throughout the song, she refuses to be a fadista, only at the end to affirm that instead of being a fadista, she would just be fado itself. This sort of juxtaposition is what makes fado what it is.
It is a constant expression of grief and longing, that, from my perspective, is effectively woven into the very fabric of Portuguese culture for centuries. Melancholy. Dreariness, mixed with a healthy dose of passion.
A good friend of mine once sheepishly told me this story from his honeymoon. They had been in Brazil for a week or two when in a marketplace or some public setting, he heard a fado clip. No big deal, right? Wrong. Upon hearing a few random notes, immediately, he said he began to cry. Simply from the sense of longing for his native country.
He’s a dear brother in the Lord, committed to the cause of Christ and to His church, but, and this is not a slant at all….he’s Portuguese and fado is part of his culture.
There’s something else that is part of his culture. It’s a word in Portuguese that is consistently named as being one of the most difficult words to accurately translate in any language. Saudade. It is a yearning, missing, longing feeling that can’t ever be completely satisfied. When you haven’t seen someone in a while and you want to express how much you miss them, you say that you have “saudades.”
The funny part is that when you finally get together, the expression is that you kill those saudades.
One blog (think big) says this about saudades…
Saudade (Portuguese): The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost. Another linguist describes it as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.”
It’s interesting that saudade accommodates in one word the haunting desire for a lost love, or for an imaginary, impossible, never-to-be-experienced love. Whether the object has been lost or will never exist, it feels the same to the seeker, and leaves her in the same place: She has a desire with no future. Saudade doesn’t distinguish between a ghost, and a fantasy. Nor do our broken hearts, much of the time.
So, what does saudades have to do with fado? The way that I see it, fado is expressing all that desire and lamentation in song.
While I’ll never completely understand that feeling, I had a certain curiosity about it. I am not a fadista and never will be, but it was intriguing to hear Marla sing and see her express all of these purely Portuguese emotions.
We sat through two sets and weren’t able to enjoy it as much as we should have been. First, because of a nearby table with equal parts tipsy adults and rowdy toddlers. They left after the first set and as quickly as they did, in staggered 4 different sots that had been waiting for a table. At one point, our fadista ended a song by covering one ear with her hand, just so she could hear the instruments above the rude conversation happening across the restaurant. She asked for a little more quiet and respect, that she easily deserved. But, much to my dismay she was greeted with a shout of, “Just sing man!” It was the ultimate sign of disrespect.
She finished the set, walked past our table and actually apologized to a table filled with nicely dressed elderly people. Then, we left.
She was great. Some of he other customers? Not so much. I am not a fadista, but if I were, I probably wouldn’t go back to La Tasca to sing. Saudades or not.