When it comes to fado, I am a hopeless and unreconstructed tourist. There, I have confessed it! And my commitment to being a tourist is almost boundless: I love to trace the trails, spaces and territories of the myth-makers of fado, to follow their steps across the mythologized neighbourhoods of Lisbon; I read the guide books, buy the CDs and fill my suitcase with fado kitsch – T-shirts, bookmarks, umbrellas, postcards, I have them all in large number! Through Mouraria, Bairro Alto or Alfama I tumble, my iPod set to fado-shuffle, my thoughts and my very being transported to some place other than here, other than the ‘real’ city of fado. I stalk the past, I lurch from one corner to the other as if Maria Severa or Amalia might any minute pop their heads out from a nearby window, and sing ‘A casa portuguesa’ or ‘Ó gente da minha terra’.
I am, then, an aural tourist, that strange creature that maps and remaps cities and territories in which beloved musics are staged. Those musics, in turn, themselves stage, imagine and reinvent the spaces to which they have become resolutely attached: fado is about Lisbon, about the iconic spaces and places of fado practice and about a vernacular imagination of modernity. My approach to fado, then, although born of scholarly interest, is fundamentally about the fantasy of fado. Thinking about fado as a kind of fantasy is not just an interesting twist on the usual repertorial or cultural-historical approach, but that it can help us understand something quite profound about some of the ways in which vernacular musical forms come to take up a special place or canonical significance in discourses about identity, nationhood and, perhaps most importantly, in our cultural memory. Fado is a remembering.