Teresa Tapadas: “Fado is my soul and the melody of a whole nation”

For Teresa, the genre is truthful and it talks about experiences, adventures and the Portuguese way of life. A type of music that is alive and always tends to evolve following trends while keeping the essential characteristics.

Teresa Tapadas, one of the main voices of the new generation, in the Fado museum. Source: Aina Errando.

She does not need a big auditorium or a huge stage to delight the audience. It is enough with a small crowd keen on listening to her deep voice. Today, she is performing in Pàteo de Alfama, one of the most famous Fado houses (Casas do Fado) in Lisbon, and the audience is eagerly awaiting the show to start.

Some other younger singers perform before her and, after a couple of folklore dances, Teresa Tapadas goes on stage. Up there, everyone can admire her confidence and elegance. Tonight, wearing a glamorous long black dress, she is ready to sing.

Fado is usually performed without a microphone and she proves tous why. Without it, her melodious voice sounds clearly inevery corner of the hall.

The typical Portuguese genre born in the 19thcentury is considered to be expressive, emotional and melancholic. It can be about hard realities and moments in daily life hoping for a solution to appear. Teresa says fadois about the people, its traditions and everything that happened in their country in the past: sailors, women, love and different neighbourhoods or villages.

Saudade” is the word that strongly relates to it. This Portuguese word means “longing” or “nostalgia” but most of the lisboetas (the inhabitants of Lisbon) argue that it does not have an accurate translation. For them, saudade means and implies a lot more than feeling a loss for something or someone.

Fado is “moody. It is very versatile because the topic of the songs can be about anything. A really depressing moment or pure joy. It also depends on how the singer is feeling that day, what audience we have and how they are feeling,” Tapadas details.

Teresa, 41, lives and breathes it. “It is my soul. I am really passionate for fado and folklore and they both complement each other.” Born in Ribatejo, she started dancing in a folklore group at the age of 12 and, from then on, she has always been linked to this tradition.

Nevertheless, surprisingly, she did not have the dream of becoming a singer. In fact, she started singing “without wanting to.” As a child, she danced folklore and used to say that one day she will become a professional dancer.

However, she considers this traditional music as “the folklore of the city.” In big cities like Lisbon there is no folklore nowadays, it is more part of the villages and small towns around Portugal. Thus, “as city residents want to have the same feeling and experience it, they listen to this traditional genre which is deeply rooted in the life of the people,” the artist states.

The genre has evolved and it includes now some little changes to make it more contemporary. “The main essence of it has remained throughout the different periods but, of course, as professionals, we need to adapt and sing about current topics,” the singer admits.

According to her, in a few years time, the traditional Portuguese genre will not change. “Fado is fado. There will be little adjustments but it will always have typical national instruments and a special place so it can be sung by a men or women fadista,” she insists.

She is the voice of experience and her singing style reflects not only talent but also a combination between freshness and tradition. As she reveals, singing this kind of music comes from the soul and few things from the soul can be learnt.

In spite of this fact, some technical aspects like how to breathe or how not to mistreat your vocal cords can be improved. “You can learn voice skills. For fifteen years now I have had voice and singing lessons one hour a week.” Every type of music need its training and preparation.

When she is on stage, she undoubtedly transmits feelings and emotions. Fadistas have different tone of voices but the audience should get, without understanding the words, whether the singer is trying to show happiness or melancholy so the emergence of feelings should be the main pillar.

The fadista sings “Lisboa menina e moça”, a famous tune about the city of Lisbon and its vibe. Source: Aina Errando.

Her audience can be really varied so she emphasizes the message of the poem with emotions. “Sometimes, at the end of the show, non-Portuguese speakers come to me and ask whether one of the songs was about a certain topic and they usually get it right,” she adds. Music in definitely an international language. You can communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries in ways that you can’t with ordinary languages.

In 2011, fado became Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and people have increasingly become more interested. Outside the country’s borders,the audience knows what fadois and what it implies. Teresa explains that it is more universal now, although it depends on the country where the fadista performs in.

Tapadas, with a sweet and silvery voice, is a promising and encouraging women with natural charm. Being one of the most respected voices in this field, she pours her heart and soul into every performance. All fadistas from the new generation sing because they want to.

She studied Public Management but she is devoted to music. Like her, many other artists work really hard and have a passion for it.  “We are here not only for money, this is our profession and our passion. Nowadays it is easier to be a full-time fadista because we get paid for our performances, before we would not,” she argues. Moreover, even though all of them have their own degrees, singing fadogives them more happiness and pleasure.

With tourism and the worldwide knowledge, young fadistas are able to make a living out of it. Tapadas admits that sometimes she prefers singing in front of a big audience with thousands of people, technicians and lights on stage.

Despite this, she also enjoys performing in Fado houses with a nice atmosphere and lighting or just singing between friends. “It is always good to go back to your origins because when you have your own shows you do not talk to other singers,” she adds.

The audience in Casas do Fado know about the genre and it is a good place for artists to show their new songs before releasing them. She also believes that it is very important to share experiences with other fadistas.

“When you sing in a professional way, you do not always want to sing. Sometimes you just want to stay at home and relax, although the special performances sometimes come when you do not even expect them,” she confesses.

Each singer is different, not only in the way theysing but also in the way they behave on stage. In particular, Teresa reflects determination, serenity and courage. She is the clear example of all those young fadistas that are fervently committed to music.

Teresa is the voice of a new generation that wants to be heard. A young generation passionate about what they do and where they do it. The country where they grew. Fadowould not exist without Lisbon and Lisbon would not be without fado. When it is sung, Lisbon sings and when Lisbon sings, it sings in fado.