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A lovely island off the coast of North Africa, it's Madeira, M'Dear
By Christopher Reynolds
Jun 3, 2008 - 10:07:45 AM

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Singing the blues

Later, I settle down to a fine dinner on the upstairs terrace of O Tapassol, one in a row of popular restaurants next to Largo do Corpo Santo, Funchal's oldest quarter. At the next table sits a young Dutch couple, and they tell about their last visit to Madeira, when they took a too-ambitious levada path and ended up marching for 10 hours. Later we head down the street to an agreeably dark and mysterious bar, the Marcelino Pao e Vinho, where a series of singers step up to join a guitarist and lose themselves in "fado," Portuguese folk music's answer to American acoustic blues. The singers are good, full of "saudade," the sense of nostalgic melancholy that is supposed to suffuse the Portuguese character. But I keep thinking: Here we sit on this wonderfully odd island, 440 miles off the coast of North Africa. What's to be melancholy about?


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