Sonia Shirsat started singing Fados in 2003 and until 2015 she saw the same audience which kept shrinking over the years as many seniors among them passed away. This led her to work on the revival of Fado as she realized that there would be no Fado performances if there was no audience.
She says, “That’s when this Fado in the City project started. We brought Fado to non-Fado audiences and held free concerts in non-Fado venues. The idea was to popularize Fado.”
Sonia also leads Fado de Goa, which is a project to teach people Fado, which is a type of Portuguese singing, but can be sung in any language.
She says, “There are these traditional Fados that have a particular melody and new lyrics are written on it.”
She adds that there may also be Fados in Hindi or Urdu.
From Fado de Goa, she says she had over 400 students who learned Fado through the project.
“We talk to them and educate them about fado. We give an introductory lecture and invite them to a class. We set up a central location and travel all the way to teach them,” says Sonia.
The program takes place over 10 two-hour sessions on Sunday, with one hour of theory and one hour of singing.
Sonia adds: “They learn five fados in 10 Sundays. They learn different types of fados, learn to distinguish them and they learn their rules.
Students learn the most traditional Fado, so they know where Fado comes from.
Fado runs in Sonia’s family. His grandmother used to write fados in her journals in beautiful cursive script after listening to them on the radio. She also made collages around them.
Sonia says: “My grandmother used to listen and write words in Portuguese. But you can’t write at that speed, so she used to write quickly, wait until they play the song again next time, [then] fill in the blanks, complete the lyrics, then transfer them to his journals that I have, which are [in] beautiful cursive script, known as ladies’ script at the time. They were taught this writing. And then she did all these collages.”