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Fado, the national song of Portugal. The fado is a folk music and dance form embodying the popular customs, poetic traditions, and cultural heritage of the Portuguese people. The fado, derived from the Latin fatum meaning fate, expresses the melancholic nature of destiny. Themes of the fado range from the travails of unrequited love to the matador's anxiety before a bullfight. Plaintive descriptions of lonely moonlit rivers and desolate cobblestone streets imbue this music with a sense of saudade, a Portuguese word referring to the yearning for the unattainable. Although some musicologists contend that the fado is entirely of Brazilian origin, research suggests that its roots include Provençal poetry, Moorish culture, and medieval troubadour songs.

Since achieving national popularity in the mid-nineteenth century, the fado has been associated with two principal styles: the fado of Lisbon, sung in cafes and taverns, and the University of Coimbra fado, performed by strolling student troubadours extolling their masculinity. Accompanied by the twelve-string Portuguese lute and the Spanish six-string guitar, singers of the fado, or fadistas, deliver their lyrics with a great sense of tragic drama. Whether sung in modern fado houses or on concert stages in Europe and America, the fado offers a chronicle of Portuguese history and culture. An influential fadista of the twentieth century was Amália Rodrigues (1920–1999). Recent stylistic changes in fado include the addition of electronic music, new instruments, and a return to nineteenth-century traditional song. Contemporary artists include Mariza, Mísia, and Tereza Salgueiro.

See alsoMusic: Art Music; Music: Popular Music and Dance; Portugal.


Rodney Gallop, "The Fado: The Portuguese Song of Fate," Musical Quarterly 19 (1933): 199-213.

Mascarenhas Barreto, Fado: Origens liriicas e motivacao poetica (1961).

Marvine Howe, "Fado in Portugal," Saturday Review (September 12, 1970): 49, 108.

David P. Appleby, Music of Brazil (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Tinhorão, José Ramos. Fado, dança do Brasil, cantar de Lisboa: O fim de um mito. Lisboa: Editorial Caminho, 1994.

Velho, Gilberto. Antropologia urbana: Cultura e sociedade no Brasil e em Portugal. Rio de Janeiro: J. Zahar Editor, 1999.

Vernon, Paul. A History of the Portuguese Fado. Brookfield, U.K.: Ashgate, 1998.

                                           John Cohassey

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