Basilissa dos Santos(N. 13 July, 1917 - M. 11 December, 2008)
Basilissa dos Santos was born on July 13, 1917 in Beco do Garcês, parish of S. Miguel, in Alfama and was baptized in the Church of Santo Estêvão.
She grew up in the Alfama neighborhood, one of the most typical in Lisbon, where fado was heard all over the place. In the 1930s, Basilissa dos Santos was part of the popular parades (St. Anthony's Festivities), being part of her neighborhood's group twice, in the years 1934 and 1936.
Still in 1936 Basilissa got married in the Palace of Santo Estêvão and from this union three children were born, two girls and a boy.
Due to her husband's influence, confident in Basilissa's vocal abilities for the interpretation of fado, she decided to register and participate in the Spring Competition, organized by the newspaper “Canção do Sul”, in 1938.
In this contest, the title of “Rainha do Fado” is disputed, through several qualifiers, each one representing a neighborhood of Lisbon. After the qualifiers' performances, the jury chooses the “Rainha do Fado” from among the winning representatives of each neighborhood. In the qualification held on May 8, 1938, at Sociedade Boa União, Basilissa dos Santos had the maximum score of 20 values, being the best classified for the Alfama neighborhood (cf. “Canção do Sul”, May 16, 1938, pp. . 4/5).
Despite receiving the title for her neighborhood, Basilissa dos Santos did not participate in the final, in which the fado singer Márcia Condessa, representing the neighborhood of Bica, won.
On February 25, 1946, the fado singer got her professional license as a “fado singer”. She made her debut at "Café Continental", where she was sponsored by the old school fado singers, Filipe Pinto and Maria do Carmo. Recalling that time, the fadista remembered that she sang, also, in "Luso", with Lucília do Carmo and Fernanda Baptista. She even mentioned that, at the beginning of her career, it was the great fado singer Lucília do Carmo who lent her two lyrics to interpret, then she naturally acquired her own repertoire.
The fado singer also performed at "Parreirinha de Alfama", with Argentina dos Santos, and was part of the cast that inaugurated the "Monumental" fado house, alongside great figures from the fadista universe, such as Frutuoso França, and also performed at the Júlia Mendes theater, in Parque Mayer, Voz do Operário and Boa União.
Basilissa dos Santos left for Lourenço Marques with her husband and children in 1954, a city where she continued to interpret fado, debuting successfully in the "Marialva" restaurant, in a party honoring Maria Lopes. She also participated in a tribute to Moniz Trindade.
Despite coordinating her fado career with her professional activity in a footwear factory in Lourenço Marques, Basilissa dos Santos did numerous shows around the city, in spaces such as the "Marialva", "Peninsular", "Astória", "Estalagem", "Ribatejano", "Adega Madragoa", "Toca", "Clube dos Lisboetas", "Cervejaria Bambu" and also at Rádio Clube de Moçambique. During the 9 years she stayed in Lourenço Marques, she was accompanied on the portuguese guitar by Alves Martins, Avelino Magalhães, Tomás de Lima, Adelino Gomes, Ferreira Neto and Tino Duarte. In the classic guitar she had the collaborations of António Fonseca, João de Sousa, Carlos Lopes, Eduardo Cerqueira, Secundido Martins and Arnaldo Carvalho, among others.
Basilissa keeps up with the careers of the biggest Fado names and reveals herself as an admirer of Hermínia Silva, Maria José da Guia, Fernando Farinha, Alfredo Marceneiro, Mário Rocha or Fernanda Maria.
She lived in Lourenço Marques until 1963, when she returned to Portugal with his family. In that year, several tributes and farewell parties were held, which reflect the great success of Basilissa dos Santos in Mozambique.
Although she did not leave the fados in her repertoire recorded in record editions, Basilissa dos Santos stated, in an interview with a Mozambican newspaper, that the fado she most liked to sing was “Quem mais jura mais mente”, but the one who interpreted request was “Coragem”.
In 1960, Basilissa dos Santos was called Grandmother Fadista, after the birth of her first grandson, son of Geny Santos, also a fado singer of great merit. At this time and during the tribute paid by the "Amigos do Clube dos Lisboetas", she was offered a gold filigree guitar and a commemorative plaque for the anniversary.
On the date of her return to Portugal, the Goldfields Portuguese Club de Welkom (South African city where she lived), paid her a heartfelt tribute and offered her a silver salver with a heartfelt inscription. At this time, the restaurant "Tico-Tico", in Johannesburg, also held a farewell party for the fado singer, gathering her friends and admirers.
Basilissa dos Santos returned to Portugal but, after the death of her husband, she traveled with her son to South Africa, where she also sang, with great success, at the "Cervejaria Severa". In 1996 this restaurant gave her a gold shawl and miniature guitar.
Over the years she moved to a nursing home in Johannesburg, where she sometimes sang, as she said to this Johannesburg newspaper in 1963: “I will sing as long as I have strength and there is fado. Even if I need a cane. Fado is everything that exists for me!”.
Basilissa dos Santos passed away in Johannesburg, in the nursing home where she lived, on December 11, 2008, aged 91.
“Canção do Sul”, 16 May 1938;
Museu do Fado - Interview held on 12 November 2004;
Data provided by Luís dos Santos, son of the fado singer;
Set of clippings and dedications delivered by Basilissa dos Santos to the Fado Museum.