Down the orange-tinted street, in the chilled night air, a voice, beautiful and haunting, halted our feet. A bundle of a woman, blind, with a donation box around her neck, was sitting on a stool on Rua Augusta, singing an aching song. In her hands was a simple triangle.
"It's Dona Rosa!"
"Who's Dona Rosa?" I asked.
This invisible lady, passed without notice, was none other than the famed Portuguese fado singer, Dona Rosa. Blinded by meningitis at the age of four, Dona Rosa lived in desperate poverty, attempting to make a living selling lottery tickets and magazines on the street. A friend gave her a triangle, and with it she took refuge from misery, singing to passersby, earning some extra money.
One day, an Austrian music producer happened across Dona Rosa, and invited her to sing at a music festival in Marrakesh, where she stunned audiences. Her unique voice, and the sincerity with which she sings, brings her to stages all over the world, accompanied by world-renowned musicians. Poland, Germany and Switzerland are soon to be graced with the presence of this incredible woman, and yet, here she was in front of our very eyes, singing as she had, years before. It was the spotting of a rare bird; an experience that stirred my soul.
"You can take Dona Rosa of the streets, but you can't take the streets out of Dona Rosa."
Perhaps returning to Rua Augusta is in some way comforting. Perhaps it is habit.
To whatever drives Dona Rosa to offer us her gift so humbly, I am grateful.
How lucky we are.
We jingled for change in our pockets, and with the clumsy clunk of the coins hitting the floor of her donation box, she paused ever so briefly, and said: