Know more:

José Manuel Osório

(N. 13 May, 1947 - M. 11 August, 2011)

José Manuel Osório was born in Leopoldville (currently Kinshasa) in the Republic of Zaire (then Belgian Congo), and he was registered on the 13 May 1947.

At 5 he listened to his first fado record, sung by Lucília do Carmo, but that was something irrelevant to his daily life.

At 10 he moved to Portugal and studied at the best schools in Lisbon, beginning to show his inclination for classic music. At 12 he registered at the Lisbon Music Conservatory and completed the Basic & Advanced Solmisation Course at 15.

Then he began to learn piano playing and finished the piano course 9 years later, with honours. Afterwards he immediately registered at the theatre course in the National Theatre Conservatory. Upon finishing high school, he joined the Companhia de Teatro Estúdio de Lisboa, directed by Luzia Maria Martins, and stayed there for 6 years.

He then registered at Law School (never completing the Law degree), where he founded the Grupo Independente de Teatro da Faculdade de Direito. He headed the group and directed "O Homúnculo" by Natália Correia. It was this author’s first text to be performed in public. By the time he met Vasco de Lima Couto, who wrote a poem for him to sing in fado.

He began to visit the fado venues in Cascais and, in his words, “I took the train right there ". José Manuel Osório sang as an amateur at "Estribo", "Cartola", "Galito" and "Arreda". He then met some charismatic singers like Alfredo Marceneiro, Maria Teresa de Noronha, Carlos Duarte, João Braga, José Pracana, Chico Pessoa and João Ferreira-Rosa, among others. He also met José Carlos Ary dos Santos, who wrote a poem for him to sing. By transforming a sonnet included in book "A Liturgia do Sangue" he obtained a beautiful decasyllable called "Desespero".

These fado venues, according to José Manuel Osório, were somehow places of rebellion against the fado houses that proliferated in the historical districts of Lisbon and which turned the pleasure of singing into an obligation.

In 1968 he had his first work recorded. That record’s repertoire included poems by José Carlos Ary dos Santos, Vasco de Lima Couto, Manuel Alegre, Mário de Sá Carneiro, António Botto, João Fezas Vital, Lídia Neto Jorge, António Aleixo and Maria Helena Reis. In 1969 he recorded his second work and received the Press Award for the Best Record of the Year.

In 1970 he received the Press Award for the Best Fado Singer of the Year but he was not allowed to perform at the stage of Coliseu. Political police PIDE banned his performance by sending an order to Casa da Imprensa.

José Manuel Osório lived a difficult time due to the sales ban imposed on his record – caused by a prejudiced left wing who could not accept the lyrics in his songs.

He left to Paris (1968) and watched «May 68». He worked at a restaurant where they sang the fado and met José Mário Branco, Sérgio Godinho and Luís Cília, among others. He also met Manuel Correia who made him a number of beautiful poems that would be recorded after the 25 April 1974.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s he energised the amateur theatre scene in dozens of shows, both as actor and director, presented essentially to the public of popular associations in Lisbon. He was awarded the First Prize of the Amateur Theatre Festival (APTA) with the Grupo Oficina de Teatro de Amadores in Alfama, directing the text "Soldados" by Carlos Reyes.

His fourth record, for the Orfeu label, included poems by Fernando Pessoa, Manuel Alegre, António Aleixo, Francisco Viana, popular poet Martinho da Rita Bexiga, António Gedeão and Alda Lara, among others. Musicians like António Chaínho, Arménio de Melo, Manuel Mendes, José Nunes, Raul Nery, José Fontes Rocha, Carlos Gonçalves, Pedro Caldeira Cabral, Pedro Leal, Manuel Martins, Joel Pina and Mestre Martinho D'Assunção participated in his recordings.

He finally returned to Portugal in 1973 and began to research and collect worker’s fado and anarchist-unionist fado to perform it subsequently.

After the 25 April 1974 he participated in the foundation of "A Barraca". He composed music jointly with Fernando Tordo and Samuel for the play "A Cidade Dourada" (A Barraca). He also composed and performed live the music "As Espingardas da Mãe Carrar" by Bertolt Brecht at Casa da Comédia, directed by João Lourenço.

He recorded three more fado records, always with the musical score of traditional fados and put an end to his recording career.

He performed mainly at the amateur fado houses of Cascais and Estoril, never giving seriously considering to become a professional fado singer.

He used all his acquired knowledge as singer to develop a career as show producer and artist manager, which he kept until 1990.

José Manuel Osório was also a member of the organising committee of Festa do Avante, directly supporting the creation of a space for fado, called «Retiro do Fado».

Due to health problems he had to quit his professional activity.

In 1993 he made a come-back by the hand of Ruben de Carvalho, to launch an artistic initiative aimed at boosting Fado – i.e. the "As Noites de Fado da Casa do Registo", in the framework of Lisboa/94, European Cultural Capital.

In 1998 EBAHL invited him to supervise the Festas de Lisboa'98.

In 2005 he supervised the project Todos os Fados (Visão, Abril 2005). Today José Manuel Osório is a researcher of the fado world, to which he was once so closely related.


Museu do Fado – Interviewed on the 11 July 2006.


José Manuel Osório, s/d.

Raul Nery, José Manuel Osório e Joel Pina, s/d.

  • Fado da Meia-Laranja José Manuel Osório (José Luís Gordo / Joaquim Campos)