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Modinha, a sentimental song genre of Brazilian and Portuguese origin cultivated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The modinha derives its name from the word moda, meaning "song" or "melody." The first known Brazilian modinhas date from the late eighteenth century. During the 1700s the Brazilian modinha became immensely popular among bourgeois circles in the salons of Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon. Although modinhas were originally written for piano or harpsichord accompaniment, the guitar became the main instrument of serenaders. By the Second Empire the modinha acquired the character of an Italian opera, and over time incorporated a love song style reminiscent of French romantic ballads.

In the nineteenth century there appeared two distinct forms of the modinha: the operatic aria type, reflecting Italian cantabile influences, and a sentimental ballad style rooted in European romantic song. Brazilian modinhas of this period are characterized by embellishments in the vocal line, romantic lyrics, and frequent use of melodic sequence. As many scholars point out, the modinha is the only Brazilian popular music form that did not emerge solely from folk music influences. In the twentieth century the spirit of the modinha has survived in the music of such Brazilian popular composers as Heitor Villa-Lobos.

See alsoMusic: Popular Music and Dance .


Gérard Béhague, Music of Latin America (1979).

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

Additional Bibliography

Livingston-Isenhour, Tamara Elena, and Thomas George Caracas Garcia. Choro: a Social History of Brazilian Popular Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Tinhorão, José Ramos. Pequena história da música popular: Da modinha ao tropicalismo. São Paulo: Art Editora, 1986.

Valença, José Rolim. Modinha: Raízes da música do povo. São Paulo: Dow, 1985.

                                           John Cohassey