Tag: Fado

Total 8 Posts
Dramatic, emotional music of Lisbon that has become an emblem of Portugal. Features dominant solo vocals by a fadista, who can nowadays be either a man or a woman. But the first famous fadistas in 1820s Lisbon were all women. Also often involved is the distinctive high-pitched Portuguese Fado guitar.

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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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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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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Mísia sings a poem by Fernando Pessoa "Autopsicografia"

Mísia "Autopsicografia"

Mísia "Autopsicografia" (Self-analysis)

Portuguese guitar: Ângelo Friere

Mísia and Pessoa - two great pretenders

What it means:

Here's my fairly free translation, to get the meaning across.


The poet is a pretender
pretending so completely
that when they pretend that they're in pain
they end up feeling their real pain.

And to those who read what the poet writes,
the pain they are carefully reading feels
like neither of the two that the poet had,
but one the readers don't actually feel.

And thus going round on the train track,
to entertain and amuse the reason,
is this wind-up train
that we call the heart.

The poet is a pretender
pretending so completely
that when they pretend that they are in pain
it's pain that they truly feel.

Pessoa's poem only has three verses. Mísia makes it longer by repeating each couplet immediately, a fairly standard practice for a singer. Then after singing Pessoa's third and final verse, there's a violin interlude, and she ends by singing the first verse again.

This means that where Pessoa finishes up with this wind-up train that we call the heart (comboio de corda que se chama coração), Mísia ends up with the poet (or singer) feeling pain that they truly feel (a dor que deveras sente).

As sung by Mísia, complete
with repetitions and ending swap.


O poeta é um fingidor
Finge tão completamente
O poeta é um fingidor
Finge tão completamente

Que chega a fingir que é dor
A dor que deveras sente.
Que chega a fingir que é dor
A dor que deveras sente.

E os que lêem

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