Once we have reviewed the origins of Portuguese music, we now focus on some of the songs in Portuguese that are most present in the collective imagination of the last two generations in the year 2020. What is undoubted is the influence that all songwriters or groups receive from their musical tradition, like fado. That’s where we’re going to try to put the focus, in fact.
In that way of dragging words, of singing slowly, of talking about feelings, of tearing that Portuguese guitar that sounds in the background or even the classic rhythms used even in the most rocking songs. Everything is part of the most characteristic features of the different musics of Portugal, now and always.
But this evolution does not imply the disappearance of fado, nor that it is no longer sung; on the contrary, there are fadistas like Mariza or Ana Moura who remain faithful to the great genre of Portuguese music, but giving it a modern, renewed, and fresh touch. Fortunately for us, if we cannot travel to Portugal, we can enjoy the emotion that this conveys thanks to the live performances that many of these artists perform from time to time in other countries. And hopefully, we can continue to enjoy much more of that experience.
12 songs with the best Portuguese music of the last 25 years
After telling you about and recommending some great classics of Portuguese song, now it’s time to talk about the most current Portuguese music, which arises from the 2000s, embracing fado again, but mixing it with other musical forms and more current genres.
In the following lines, we will delve into some of the great themes of music in Portuguese, without forgetting to mention alongside them some of the great Portuguese groups and artists of today. Because if Portugal has anything, among many other things, it is that it takes a long time to forget its singers.
Corzinha de verão, by Deolinda
Deolinda is a group of popular Portuguese music formed by 4 members: 2 brothers, their cousin and her husband (it’s all in the family). They take inspiration from fado and the greats of Portuguese music, such as Amália Rodrigues, José Afonso, or Antonio Variaçoes, although they give it a personal touch, without Portuguese guitar and with more cheerful and fun themes.
The 2016 song is a humorous lament for bad luck, going on vacation and having bad weather, while everyone else is lucky and has good weather. The video clip is very funny, we see Ana Bacalhau, the vocalist of the group, very warmly dressed and sad singing in scenarios like a painting museum or on the beach itself, while her companions enjoy the good weather.
Maria Albertina, by Humanos
Humanos is the Portuguese band that was created in 2004 to sing unpublished songs by António Variações that his brother had kept after his death. It is made up of several Portuguese musicians who already had a solo career or were part of other groups. This is the case of Canamé, whom we have already talked about, or Hélder Gonçalves, who belongs to the group Clã. The group disbanded in 2008.
The song, with a cheerful and catchy rhythm, tells us of the astonishment to know that Maria Albertina has decided to call her daughter Vanessa. The video clip is also very fun, telling us the story of the hairdresser Maria Albertina and seeing the members of the group singing and playing curious instruments to the rhythm of the song.
Como calha, by B Fachada
B Fachada, artistic name of Bernardo Cruz Fachada, is a Portuguese singer-songwriter who was part of the group Diabo na cruz during the first 3 years of the band. It was in 2007 when he started his solo career by releasing his first EP, although it wasn’t until 2010 that he achieved some recognition.
This song, released in 2012, has a sound that reminds us of the 80s, with synthesizers, a cheerful rhythm that encourages dancing. However, when listening to and understanding the lyrics, we become somewhat disconcerted, as it talks about mistakes made in the past, that nothing is right and there is no hope. This song does not lack originality.
Pica do 7, by António Zambujo
António Zambujo’s style is marked by cante alentejano, a traditional genre from Alentejo, the region where he was born. This genre is now considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. He later became interested in fado, and at just 16 he won a contest in this genre. In 2017, he received a Latin Grammy nomination for his album Até Pensei Que Fosse Minha.
This 2014 song tells us about a girl’s infatuation on tram number 7, and in the video, we see her imagining her love story with the conductor of that tram. It is a song with a calm rhythm, nostalgic with Portuguese guitar, accordion, various wind instruments, and percussion.
Melhor de mim, by Mariza
Mariza is one of the most well-known fadistas in current Portuguese music. Born in Portuguese Mozambique, from a young age, she was exposed to fado and became interested in gospel, R&B, and Brazilian music as she grew up. Her discography includes 9 albums, and she has collaborated with Spanish artists such as Miguel Poveda, José Mercé, or Buika.
In 2018, she performed alongside another famous fadista, Ana Moura, at the opening ceremony of Eurovision 2018, held in Lisbon thanks to the previous year’s victory in Kiev by the Portuguese singer-songwriter Salvador Sobral.
The 2015 song talks about hope, knowing how to wait, and the certainty that after the storm comes the calm. It has a calm rhythm, accompanied by guitar, and at the climax, Mariza raises her powerful voice in a way that only she knows how. It’s so powerful that it echoes Amália Rodrigues in our ears.
Conto de fadas de Sintra a Lisboa, by Os pontos negros
The Portuguese garage rock band emerged in 2005, although their success came in 2008 with the album Magnífico Material Inútil, which includes this song. They have 2 more albums that didn’t achieve the same success, but they remain a very important rock band in Portugal. In 2009, they received a nomination at the MTV Europe Music Awards. Their latest album is somewhat more intimate, though they remain true to their style.
In this fairy tale, we are told about a love story between two people from completely different worlds who only really meet each other when it is too late, like a sort of Cinderella. It’s an animated song with ironic lyrics and a touch of humor.
Desfado, by Ana Moura
Ana Moura is another of the great fadistas of current Portuguese music. She started her career in 2003 and hasn’t stopped since, accumulating 6 albums to date and holding the record for album sales in her country. As we already mentioned with Mariza, both performed in the opening acts of the 2018 Eurovision festival held in Lisbon. The Portuguese must be proud of these two great artists!
The song itself is a definition of fado, embracing feelings of nostalgia, accepting sadness as just another emotion, not something bad, and other paradoxes that might seem absurd but make a lot of sense. With a cheerful rhythm, very instrumental, the song conveys optimism, joy, and a zest for life.
A Bia Da Mouraria, by Carminho
Carminho is one of the youngest fadistas in the Portuguese music scene, and it runs in her family, as her mother and brother are also musicians. In 2005, she received the Amália award as a revelation woman at just 20 years old. She participated in Carlos Saura’s movie Fados, and the people of Zaragoza even saw her perform in 2008 during the Expo. She has also collaborated with Pablo Alborán, which helped her become known in our country. She has 5 albums to her credit, and we hope she continues to delight us with her voice for many more albums.
This beautiful song, reminiscent of the most traditional fados with that characteristic guitar sound, talks about the wedding of two poor but very much in love youngsters that will take place in the Mouraria neighborhood in Lisbon, and it has all the neighbors excited and happy about the event.
Conjugar Lisboa, by Misia
Misia, stage name of Susana Maria Alfonso de Aguiar, is a fadista from Porto with a Spanish mother and Portuguese father. This explains the originality of her musical style, combining tangos, boleros, guitar, accordion, violins, piano. Her traditional and poetic fado is also heavily influenced by Amália Rodrigues. Misia also sings songs from other musicians as fado and in various languages.
As you would expect, this 2009 song evokes memories of a city, Lisbon, lived moments, special places that the singer remembers with affection and nostalgia. Nothing more than her voice accompanied by guitars is needed to enjoy the song and feel that sad joy characteristic of fado.
O pastor, by Madredeus
The group Madredeus emerged in 1985 with the idea of making music with Portuguese roots that wasn’t fado. They were four musician friends looking for a vocalist and after several unsuccessful auditions, they accidentally found the perfect voice in Teresa Salgueiro, who at just 17 sang in a tavern for fun. Thus the group emerged, and its name is due to the place where they used to rehearse, near the Madre de Deus convent in Lisbon.
In this beautiful song from 1997, we hear Teresa’s sweet and emotive voice accompanied by Portuguese guitar, accordion, cello, and keyboard. And this apparent simplicity transports us to a world of dreams and magic from which one does not want to wake up.
Teresa left the group in 2008 and was replaced by Beatriz Nunes as the lead vocalist. Other members also left the group, and new ones joined, but their musical production has continued, and the group has released about a dozen albums.
Os Loucos Estão Certos, by Diabo na Cruz
The Portuguese rock band with touches of traditional folklore emerged in 2008 at the hands of Jorge Cruz, a boy who dreamed of forming a band, and so he did with the additions of Juan Pinheiro, Bernardo Barata, B Fachada, and Juan Gil. They released their first album in 2009, and after four albums and some member changes, they announced the dissolution of the group in 2019. It’s a shame, but luckily they have left us with a good number of songs to enjoy.
Like this one from 2009, full of rhythm, like any typical rock song, that makes us move our hips and sing its lyrics at the top of our lungs (if we know them). It has a catchy and fun chorus and talks about a world that could well appear in some circle of Dante’s inferno, where the mad are right, the fools have power, and everything is upside down.
Amar pelos dois, by Salvador Sobral
We couldn’t end this post without talking about Salvador Sobral, who we have already mentioned earlier, as he was responsible for Portugal’s victory in the Eurovision festival held in Kiev in 2017. It was Portugal’s first victory after 53 years of participation in the festival, being one of the countries with the worst results in its history (we have more in common than we think).
Accustomed as we are to upbeat, lively, danceable, albeit very forgettable songs winning, Salvador Sobral’s victory with “Love for Both” represented a win for sensitivity, a song dedicated to the beloved, sung with great feeling, expressive performance by Salvador, and a very simple staging.
The song was composed by his sister Luisa, who also took care of the rehearsals in the semifinal due to Salvador’s delicate health. Luisa became the first female composer to win solo in Eurovision.
He continues to dedicate himself to his music, with influences from jazz and alternative music, has released 2 studio albums, and we hope he continues to gift us his sensitivity in many more songs.
(Madrid, 1988). Azahara P. Navas has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the Complutense University of Madrid and currently works as a language translator with knowledge of English, French, German and Greek.