The history of the Portuguese guitar in fado: How the instrument appeared and how it became a fundamental element of Portuguese fado.
The history of the Portuguese guitar in fado dates back to the 19th century, when fado began to gain popularity on the streets of Lisbon. Although the exact origin of the instrument is uncertain, the Portuguese guitar is believed to have evolved from similar instruments brought by sailors returning from their world travels.
Initially, the Portuguese guitar was an instrument of a more popular nature, used in parties and social events. However, as fado gained space in the neighborhoods of Lisbon, the Portuguese guitar began to stand out as a fundamental element in the interpretation of this music of melancholic and sentimental expression.
The Portuguese guitar has a unique structure and peculiar characteristics that make it distinctly Portuguese. The instrument is built with a rounded sound box, with a wooden top, usually cedar, and a bottom of more rigid wood, such as rosewood or jacaranda. It has a narrow and long mouth, which gives a resonant and distinctive sound.
With its twelve steel strings, arranged in six identically tuned pairs, the Portuguese guitar has a bright, penetrating sound. The strings are traditionally played with fingernails, allowing the player to create a percussive and distinctive feel, accentuating the emotion and rhythm of fado.
Over the years, the Portuguese guitar has established itself as an essential instrument to accompany Fado singers. Its melancholic and expressive timbre helps evoke the deep emotions of the Fado lyrics, creating a unique and exciting atmosphere.
During the 20th century, the Portuguese guitar went through some changes in its construction, especially with regard to the format and materials used. However, its essence and importance in fado remained intact. The craftsmen continued to improve the technique of construction of the Portuguese guitar, preserving its tradition and contributing to its characteristic sound.
Today, the Portuguese guitar is considered a symbol of fado and plays a central role in live performances. Played masterfully by talented guitarists, it sets the rhythm, accompanies the fado singers and unleashes captivating melodies, taking the audience on a unique emotional journey.