A Cultural Sidenote 7

Portugal’s oldest urban folk music genre is fado. Fado was just recognized by UNESCO on November 30th, 2011. The origins of fado are unknown, but one popular theory is that it originated among the moors who stayed in Lisboa after the Muslims were driven from Portugal. There are several varieties of fado, and two main cultural centers where it is performed and taught: Lisboa and Coimbra.  Fado can be performed by men or women, although the raw emotion of the female fadista is nearly always preferred. Dressed in black with a shawl draped over her shoulders, a fadista stands in front of the musicians and communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, but the body remains stationary. It is usually accompanied by  two guitarists, one playing the melody on a Portuguese guitar (a 12-stringed lute instrument) and the other supplying the rhythm on the six-stringed viola (Classical guitar). To Americans, fado is a sad sounding music; however, it contains lyrics that speak to people’s souls and it is sung in a way which expresses deep emotion. A fado singer must have a flexible voice capable of expressing large, and often quick, dynamic changes. Fado topics often center on destiny, ‘saudade’(a longing/loss like homesickness which has no English equivalent) deep-seated emotions, disappointments in love, the sadness and longing you feel for someone who has gone away, misfortune, and the sea. If asked, the Portuguese would agree that fado is a form of world music which captures what it is to be Portuguese. If you’d like to hear an example of fado, click the link below.


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