Different versions of classic Cabo Verdean Morna "Sodade"

Césaria Évora "Sodade" (Longing)

Césaria Évora "Sodade" (Longing) live in Paris, 2004

Words and Music: Amândio Cabral
First appeared on Césaria Évora's 1992 album "Miss Perfumado"

The words are sung in the Portuguese-based creole language spoken on the Cape Verde islands, where the song was written sometime in the 1960s. The song is now sung throughout the Portuguese-speaking world, and here we present several versions. It is one of the most famous examples of Morna, the plaintive ballad style of the islands.

Cabo Verde became independent from Portugal in 1975, after the Portuguese revolution brought the colonial wars to a close. Cabo Verde later split off from Guinea-Bissau, on the African mainland, from where it had been run during Portuguese rule.

"Sodade" seems to mean the same as the Portuguese word "saudade" [sad, alone, yearning, pining, missing you etc], but the music sounds more laid back than, for example, Fado.

What it's about: The singer is missing home and someone far away, and regretting their parting. So it is a classic song of homesickness, and of pining for someone, hence its universal appeal.

Who showed you this long path
Who showed you this long path
This path to São Tomé?

Longing, longing, longing
for my homeland of São Nicolau

If you write to me, I'll write to you
If you forget me, I'll forget you
Until the day you return

Who showed you this long path
Who showed you this long path
This path to São Tomé?

Longing, longing, longing
for my homeland of São Nicolau.

Tito Paris in a live performance for a radio

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Madredeus and the Fado tradition

Madredeus singer and composer
Singer Teresa Salgueiro and composer and guitarist Pedro Ayres Magalhães
Madredeus "Não muito distante"

1. Madredeus "Não muito distante" (Not much longer)

Voice: Teresa Salgueiro
Words and music: Pedro Ayres Magalhães
from 1997 album "O Paraíso" (Paradise)

This song has emotional Fado-like lyrics, and the singing does quickly attain a Fado-like intensity and sense of desperation. But the backing is played in a more modern musical style, with an even tempo. The singer Teresa Salgueiro is as dominant as any fadista, but she is accompanied not by the high-pitched Portuguese guitar but an altogether different line-up - here two classical guitars, an acoustic bass and a keyboard synthesiser.

This is Madredeus. Since its first album in 1987 Madredeus has introduced into Portuguese music a parallel track to Fado that resembles it, but that is capable of appealing to wider audiences both in Portugal and abroad. Madredeus also deals with an overlapping but somewhat greater range of subject matter. So Fado 2.0 - not the same as the domesticated Fado tradition handed over from the dictatorship period, nor the new Fado of the later 1990s Fado revival, but not in any way a less intense music or less Portuguese either.

What this song is about: The title "Não muito distante" means "Not too distant" or "Not far off", in other words when they will next see each other. But the singer feels she is now being fobbed off with a promise. In reality she has lost her lover. And she feels it's her own fault. She wasn't satisfied with the relationship, demanded more

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Welcome! This whole site is a sampler of Portuguese music, so you can hear what it sounds like and get a feeling for what it means. It concentrates on the styles most popular in Portugal, going back over the last 50 years so you can find out how this extraordinary music has come about.

The Portuguese do of course listen to other western music, but I don't cover that here. Instead the focus is on music from Portugal sung for the most part in Portuguese. To the extent copyright law allows me I give samples of the lyrics and translations into English where I can. Where I can't translate I'll paraphrase or give a summary of what I think it's about.

Music is a form of memory. It helps create a shared understanding among people, a sense of who we are and what we have in common. Music can do this because it evokes feelings. And what we have in common with other people is only occasionally knowledge or opinions. What we share with other people is feelings. Discovering and connecting with an unfamiliar music deepens our connection with humanity, and our own self-knowledge. Music thus becomes a source of strength, hope and resilience.

About the Author

I'm Ian Stobie, a blogger based in the UK. I live in England, but love Portuguese music. I want to discover more of it and understand what it means.

I first visited Portugal in 1975 at the tail end of the Revolution. There was a lot going on at the time, but I didn't notice much in the way of music. People were not singing

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Why do some Portuguese despise Fado?

Fado has been disliked and even despised by both Right and Left in Portugal during its eventful history. It has been looked down on, legally censored and actively suppressed - but much more actively and effectively by the Right.

It was seen as a source of weakness, in both moral and military spheres.


This famous picture by José Malhoa (1855 to 1933), now in the Museo do Fado in Lisbon, is brilliant in its ambiguity. It was painted in 1910 as the debate about Fado was raging. We are now likely to glance at it and see an image of cool bohemianism. But dissolute moral decadence was a more likely reading at the time.

The man on the right is a fadista and petty criminal known as The Painter (Malhoa, who knew them both was thus known as The Old Painter in demi-monde circles).

The woman on the left is a prostitute known as The Scar. She was heavily tattooed. But was known to the young King, who asked Malhoa to tone down the tattoos. The King, like many aristocrats of the day, was a Fado fan.

There lies the problem. Fado was associated with a declining monarchy, and an aristocratic landowning class that was despised for its weakness, moral corruption and inability to stand up for the country. Rather than frequenting brothels it should have been out in the world fighting the other colonial powers, especially the British (who’d taken bits of central Africa off the Portuguese in the era of Cecil Rhodes [1]).

Fado loses its powerful protectors

The previous King had been assassinated in 1908, along with his designated heir. The

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Ana Moura sings a bold feminist Fado

Ana Moura "Amor afoito"

Ana Moura "Amor afoito" (Bold love)

Portuguese guitar: Ângelo Freire
Music: Jorge Benvinda
Words: Nuno Figueiredo (both of the band Virgem Suta)
From the 2012 album "Desfado"

This song is a masterpiece of both singing and the Portuguese guitar. It also has innovative words. It's from her top-selling album Desfado (Unfado), which sets out to expand the range of topics and moods Fado can deal with.

What it's about: Here Ana is setting out her terms for a relationship. She is speaking directly and boldly to her lover, telling them what she expects and how the two of them can proceed. This is a far cry from the usual subject matter of Fado, which is rich in songs of regret, hopeless yearning and despair. Here the fadista is flirtatious and assertive. You get the feeling that her lover, who she addresses as tonto (silly), is likely to comply.

Dou-te o meu amor,
Se mo souberes pedir, tonto,
Não me venhas com truques, pára,
Já te conheço bem demais

I'll give you my love,
If you know how to ask for it, silly,
Don't come to me with tricks, stop it,
I already know you too well.

The YouTube video above has the lyrics in Portuguese on-screen in an easy to follow way. The audio is the album version. Desfado by the way is still the top-selling Portuguese album - in any genre, of all time.

Here's a live version of Ana singing it. This has the lyrics in Portuguese in the YouTube description (viewable on most devices).

Ana Moura "Amor afoito" live


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