Tag: Quora

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Quora is an Internet Question-and-Answer site. I sometimes answer questions about Portuguese music and history there. Where there is overlap between this site and Quora, the version here is best ("canonical"). It is usually the most complete and the most recently updated. Unlike Quora, this is a non-commercial educational and instructional site. This allows me more freedom to critique and review work and quote lyrics, and to translate more Portuguese words into English under "fair dealing".

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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Why did Portugal want to explore the world?

Fausto Bordalo Dias "O barco vai de saída"

Fausto Bordalo Dias "O barco vai de saída" (The boat is setting out)

Here are several possible answers I've come across reading about Portugal. I'm not sure about how much importance to give each one.

1. Portugal is located in the far southwest of Europe, squeezed between the mountains and the sea. There's not really anywhere else to go in Europe. Across the mountains are “Castilians with knives”.

2. Fishing has always been a key industry, so Portugal had the sailors. Also you have to go a long way for some catches (e.g. to Newfoundland for cod), so the sailors had deep-water Atlantic sailing skills, not more coastal Mediterranean experience.

3. The best land in Portugal is along the coastal strip in the north and centre of the country. As you go south (into the Alentejo) it gets dry - not an overwhelming problem for modern agriculture but a big challenge in the past. Till you get to the far south coast (the Algarve), which has some potentially fertile mountains and rivers. But, back in the past, to make much use of the Algarve you really needed to control both sides of the sea - the European and African coasts. Otherwise raiders would steal your workforce or set up their own castles and mini kingdoms. So immediately after driving out the Muslim Moors the Portuguese Christian kings set about seizing land on the African side too. (Which of course the Moors had had themselves - it was the only way to make the Algarve viable).

4. With the Algarve conquest the new

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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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