Arts & Entertainment

Portuguese Fado reinvents itself, but without losing the essence

By Brian Bujalance

Lisbon, Jan 5 (EFE).- Nearly ten years ago, Fado, a traditional Portuguese music, was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, recognizing it as a symbol of Lisbon and the country as a whole.

Today, the lively essence of this urban music has been fused new instruments and lyrics that attract younger generations.

In an interview with Efe, professor and musicologist Rui Vieira Nery says that Fado, which means fate, combines tradition and innovation in a genre that is “alive, with a sense of heritage, but at the same time seeking dialogue with other genres of contemporary music.”

This sort of innovation is exemplified by Catalan music producer Raul Refree and Portuguese singer Lina, who jointly revisited songs by best-selling Portuguese artist in history and Queen of Fado Amalia Rodrigues, replacing the Portuguese guitar and viola with analog instruments like the piano and bass synthesizers.

Lina explains to Efe that newly incorporated instruments end up having a similar or stronger impact compared to traditional Fado.

The Fadista maintains that her joint project with Refree allowed the Portuguese art to enter festivals and reach audiences who may never have heard of Fado before.

Furthermore, world-renowned Fado singer Cuca Roseta is famous for writing and composing her own Fado pieces from a very young age, a method that has been followed by several Fadistas.

“It was difficult for me because I was one of the first. It was unusual for a Fadista to do that,” says Roseta, whose latest original album was released in 2020.

She adds that the main difference between traditional Fado and her pieces is that she adds drums, piano or accordion during composition.

For Cuca, it is not all about renovation, as she maintains other elements, such as using a minor tone to reflect vibes of melancholy, a sign of her respect to the roots of Fado.

Fado was born in 1820s Lisbon, and since then, it saw a number of transformations, from being only popular among the urban communities of the Portuguese capital, to a booming expansion in theaters and halls of the aristocracy, and eventually becoming a national musical genre throughout the 20th century.

Then comes Amalia Rodrigues, the best-known voice in all of Portugal, whose role was instrumental in popularizing Fado on a global level.

“Amalia invented a new type of Fado, a one that would allow her to perform on stage at a concert for an hour and a half,” explains professor Nery.

The Portuguese musicologist considered UNESCO’s recognition of Fado a decade ago as a major leap for the art, which had a sort of reconciliation with the Portuguese society, as some of its sectors considered it as a legacy of Portugal’s dictatorship.

“People recognized that the cultural identity of Portugal would not be the same without Fado,” he said. EFE


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