Tag: Amália Rodrigues

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Amália Rodrigues (1920 to 1999) is a giant of the Fado genre, and may well be Portugal's most famous woman. Her real achievement is that she saved some of the spirit of the original Fado, and transmitted it to the present. Fado underwent intense political attack in the 1930s and public indifference and neglect after the Revolution of 1974-1975. Amália sang on. Her repertoire is still very much alive today.

The sound of Amália Rodrigues, Portugal's most famous Fado singer

Amália Rodrigues (full name Amália da Piedade Rebordão Rodrigues) is the paradigmatic singer of Lisbon Fado. More than 100 years after her birth she still deeply influences many performers today.

Her voice has a fluent, flexible quality and is also very clear, allowing her to do full justice to the meaning and poetry of the words she is singing.

During her life (1920 to 1999) Amália was at various times heaped with recognition and awards. But at other times, especially in Portugal itself, she was the subject of controversy, hostility and - for a period after the 1974 Revolution, neglect.

Attitudes to Amália mirror those to Fado music generally, which I write about more elsewhere (see links below this article).

But in this post I want to concentrate on what she actually sounds like. For Amália's work lives on in sound recordings and film clips, many now readily accessible, especially from the later period of her career.

Amália Rodrigues "Alfama"

Amália Rodrigues "Alfama" (an old quarter of Lisbon strongly associated with Fado)

Music: Alain Oulman
Words: José Carlos Ary dos Santos
Portuguese guitar: Raul Nery

This first appeared on the 1970 album Com que voz. The version above is slightly later, featuring the distinctive tones of Raul Nery on the high-pitched Portuguese Guitar.

What it means: Both Alain Oulman and Ary dos Santos were leftists in the Portuguese political spectrum, skirting what was possible in the declining years of the dictatorship. By this time the Alfama district was sadly neglected - cut off from the sea by big new roads and insecure and crime ridden at night. This is what the

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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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Who are some of the greatest interpreters of Portuguese Fado?

I'll concentrate on singers still performing today. I usually mention the principal guitarist too, particularly if they are playing the high-pitched Portuguese guitar, sometimes called the Fado guitar. This is pretty important, as it often performs almost a duet with the singer, and is a key part of the performance. In other cases an ordinary acoustic guitar can play this role, or even a piano. Or the singer can dominate.

Cuca Roseta "Triste sina"

Cuca Roseta "Triste sina" (Sad fate)

Portuguese guitar: Ângelo Freire

This song is one of many associated with the late Amália Rodrigues, and has had many modern interpreters. Here Cuca Roseta sticks fairly closely to a classic simple, almost stark, Fado form. Unpretentious but spellbinding.

Mísia "Tive um curação, perdi-o"

Mísia "Tive um curação, perdi-o" (I had a heart, but I lost it)

Portuguese guitar: Luís Guerreiro

This isn't entirely typical of Lisbon Fado, but it is representative of Mísia, who as a performer is never under-dramatic! The song is again from the repertoire of Fado legend Amália Rodrigues, who wrote the words.

After the revolution in 1974–1975, and the opening up of Portugal to modern western music and culture after the censorship of the dictatorship, Fado fell out of fashion. Mísia has played a key role as a bridge between Amália and the Fado stars of today, convincing record companies Fado could still have a market and popularising it around the world.

Mariza "Medo"

Mariza "Medo" (Fear)

Portuguese guitar: Luís Guerreiro (plus an entire orchestra - which usually gets in the way with Fado but in this

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