Famous Coimbra Fados and other music about Coimbra


There are certain countries and cities that have among their history numerous films and songs that, rather than being developed on their soil, talk about them as if they were another entity with personality. In this entry I will talk about fados from Coimbra that marked a large part of my experiences throughout my Erasmus between 2008 and 2009.

The people who pass by make them what they are, their history and the idiosyncrasy that is created around them shape them, and from all of this love (or hate) letters emerge as another part of their charm.

I suppose the easiest thing to start with would be to talk about songs that talk about New York or Madrid, one because of the fame it has and the other because, being from here, it has always been easier for me to discover topics about it. Also because the belief that it is the center of the world marks the singers a bit, apparently.

Mondego River (Coimbra)

However, this first post dedicated to city songs is about famous and not so famous Coimbra fados. Coimbra, a city in Portugal known above all for its University, something like the Salamanca there, with a particular tuna and a very important presence of the Academic Association (Associação Acadómica de Coimbra) on a social level.

However, for me Coimbra is the Praça da República with the bar terrace where you have a galão or a beer, it is the Feito Conceito with the blue caipirinha. Also by the Bigorna Bar, the bars, the Noites Longas, the Shot’s Bar, even by the Via Láctea. But also for the quiet life, for the walk through Mondego Park, next to the river, even through the Portugal dos pequenitos. For the Latada, for the Queima das fitas and, as a last note in memory, for the Coimbra fado with which the nights ended at dawn in some bars.

There’s also one more importante place, maybe the most impoartant if you come as a tourist interested in music. Bar Acapella is a must if you want to hear fado in Coimbra live, but what you’re going to find hear is not a place where you can listen there, but fado about Coimbra.

Playlist with Coimbra fados and emblematic songs about Coimbra

Saudades de Coimbra, by José Afonso

José Afonso

José Afonso (or Zeca) is one of the most beloved artists of the city where the poet Miguel Torga died. This affection is due, only in part, to his song Saudades De Coimbra, in which he walks through its narrow streets, its stairs, its medieval arches, its parks and its Mondego river, while the singer walks with his cape, typical of the student (and that all the students wear there).

Because talking about the music of Coimbra (and Portuguese songs in general) is synonymous with talking about saudade (synonymous with nostalgia, longing, melancholy, homesickness and everything together). The reason lies in its long history as the center of university education in its country. A large part of its students were inhabitants of other cities who went to live in Coimbra to pursue a degree, and when they finished it they returned to their city of origin, full of sadness.

Abril em Portugal (Coimbra), by Amália Rodrigues

Amália Rodrigues

The most famous song worldwide was sung by the most famous fadista in the world, Amália Rodrigues. Known as Abril Em Portugal or simply Coimbra, it begins like this:

Coimbra is a lesson in dream and tradition, the Lente (NT: Coimbra High School, known as the Clube dos Lentes) is a song and the moon is the faculty, the book is a woman, only those who know her learn to say Saudade.

Evoking the feeling of spring, a recurring season, as we will see below.

Balada Da Despedida (Coimbra Tem Mais Encanto), by Fernando Machado Soares

Balada Da Despedida (Coimbra Tem Mais Encanto), bu Fernando Machado Soares

If you ever visit Coimbra, in addition to sightseeing and visiting what the travel guide (or the internet) recommends, you can go out one night at the Academic Association’s discotheque, which is cheaper, or at any not particularly large pub and you will see that the last song that plays before closing is Balada Da Despedida (Coimbra Tem Mais Encanto), fado by Fernando Machado Soares or Balada Da Despedida Do 5º Ano Jurídico (Coimbra, 1989), fado by the Estudantina Universitária De Coimbra, interchangeably.

Balada Da Despedida Do 5º Ano Jurídico (Coimbra, 1989), by Estudantina Universitária De Coimbra

Cartel de la Queima das fitas 2008/2009 con Balada Da Despedida Do 5º Ano Jurídico (Coimbra, 1989), de la Estudantina Universitária De Coimbra

In Coimbra they have been able to take advantage of a fact that is less and less unique, since the world is more globalized and it is possible to travel to other countries more easily. It is not so much a question of the city in which you live as of the fact of living for a while in a single place, get good experiences there and return home full of good memories and saudades.

But as I said before, in Coimbra they have been like this for centuries and they have deservedly earned fame. Above all thanks to the Queima das Fitas, a festival lasting more than a week, organized by the University of Coimbra and in which final year students traditionally burn their colored ribbons, representative of the degree they are studying, as a symbolic way of ending their career and the time they spent there (some people burn their entire student uniform). How could they not compose Fados about Coimbra with this idea of the vital saudade of youth in mind?

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