In Spain, we can feel fortunate to have a neighboring country like Portugal, with exquisite cuisine, magical charm, and extremely hospitable, friendly, and grateful inhabitants. And this is just to summarize, because we could talk about all the things we like in Portugal, and that would take several posts.
However, since our blog is dedicated to music, we will focus on Portuguese singers and their famous fados. We have already done a double review of the article on Portuguese music, where we talked about the most current Portuguese singers, dedicating another to the Portuguese song with the most well-known and influential names. In them, we also went through various genres, but Portuguese fado continues to be a hallmark of the Portuguese today, and we believe it deserves an entire entry where we talk about this genre and the most famous fadistas in history.
What is the most striking feature of the fado sung by Portuguese fado singers? The first thing that certainly comes to mind is the word saudade, a feeling between melancholy and nostalgia, we would say. A mixture of emotions, because nostalgia does not have to be sadness. Some sad memories can also bring us happiness; it seems a bit paradoxical, but it is true. And hey, we all have those sensitive moments when we put on a “sad” song with its corresponding nostalgic memory and end up smiling… And these nostalgic memories can be directed at a person, a place, or even objects that were important in the past and our lives.
So, with this selection of famous fados, we hope you find a moment of peace, reflection, and above all, that you enjoy, as we have said other times, you do not need to know a language to feel what the singers want to convey. And only the best can do that.
Either way, we always usually make a summary of the song’s theme or main ideas, so we will have everything to fully absorb each theme.
Names of Portuguese singers and most famous fado
Those who have curiosity or passion for music in general already know many names of famous Portuguese fadistas. For those new to the genre, remember the names of Mariza, Amália Rodrigues, Carlos do Carmo, or Ana Moura, as they are significant representatives of Portuguese fado and highly recommended for a first contact.
Fado originated in the early 19th century in Lisbon, and its influences are not entirely clear; some claim it comes from medieval troubadour songs, others say that fado has Arab roots, and others say it came from the songs that Africans sang when they went out to sea. Certainly, fado has a bit of everything, mixed from here and there until it evolved into what we know today.
Also, fado has its characteristic features depending on the city of origin, with the most important being fado from Coimbra and Lisbon. What is common to all fados is that they are performed by Portuguese singers, and the most well-known Portuguese fadistas sing with much feeling and a Portuguese guitar.
Do not hesitate and tell us what each of the famous fados we have chosen for the occasion evokes in you.
Loucura, by Mariza
Currently, Mariza is one of the most famous fadistas on the current music scene, with a style that blends traditional fado with touches of gospel or R&B. She is undoubtedly the most well-known Portuguese singer in our country, having collaborated with various Spanish artists like Miguel Poveda.
Loucura is an ode to fado, those contradictory feelings, “to sing and suffer” says Mariza. Fado is a sung poem, something that helps us calm the soul, reach a state of catharsis and peace after venting. A beautiful definition as beautiful as Mariza’s voice, don’t you agree?
Grândola Vila Morena, by José “Zeca” Afonso
José Afonso is another great eminence in the world of famous Portuguese singers. Possibly Grândola Vila Morena is his most well-known fado, a protest song that marked the Carnation Revolution of 1974 and was banned by the oppressive regime. Despite the usual attempts, democracy triumphed in Portugal.
The background sound, like soldiers marching to an unknown destiny, and José Afonso’s voice, give us chills and infect us with that solemnity and will to fight for the rights they want to take away from us. Some things have not changed at all; it seems unbelievable…
Fado Português, by Amália Rodrigues
Amália Rodrigues is considered the queen of fado, and deservedly so. She was widely acclaimed during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and her extensive discography proves her success, both in her native country and in other European countries. Not even the accusations that were thrown at her about her possible relationship with the fascist regime could destroy her.
Amália’s fados are characterized by singing to her country, its hospitality. In Fado Português, the story of fado is told, how it emerged from the chest of a sailor who began to sing to relieve the longing for his land.
Desfado, by Ana Moura
Ana Moura, like Mariza, is one of the great fado singers of today. In fact, both have sung together on several occasions. The two gave a fresh and renewed touch to fado, without straying from its essence.
Desfado is a good example of what we’re saying, with a cheerful and optimistic tone, accompanied by various instruments, Ana tells us what fado is, which is nothing more than accepting our sadness as just another feeling, without it being a bad thing for that. She says “I’m happy to feel good just because I’m so sad,” I’m happy to feel good just because I’m so sad. It may seem a contradiction to us, but that’s the crux of the matter.
O Pastor, by Madredeus
The group Madredeus wanted to make Portuguese music known beyond fado. The original group formed in the 80s consisted of four friends along with Teresa Salgueiro, then 17 years old and a prodigious voice. In 2008 Beatriz Nunes replaced Teresa as vocalist, and there were other member changes, but the group remains active.
O Pastor is an original and mesmerizing song from beginning to end, from the start it transports us to a dreamlike and magical world with surreal connotations, where Teresa’s sweet voice accompanies us along with the Portuguese guitar, a cello, and a keyboard. A delight.
Sei De Um Rio, by Camané
Camané is the stage name of the fado singer Carlos Manuel Moutinho Paiva dos Santos Duarte, who began his professional career in 1979 after winning a musical contest focused on fado. He is a very versatile artist who, in addition to being a fado singer, has been a crooner, chansonier, canzonetista, bolero, and bossa nova singer, as well as singing in various languages.
Sei De Um Rio, as it could not be otherwise, speaks to us of memories, of nostalgias, in this case inspired by a river where the lie turns into truth, that is, that some memories over time adapt to what our mind prefers.
Se Não Chovesse (Fado Súplica), by Cristina Branco
Although Cristina’s interests began with jazz and other types of Portuguese music, it was her grandfather who showed her the magic of fado by giving her a record by Amália Rodrigues. Cristina began to sing fado in private and eventually became a prestigious fado singer. She has sung versions of other fado singers like José Afonso and collaborated with other Portuguese artists like Diabo Na Cruz.
Se Não Chovesse is a sad fado with which we all certainly identify, how many times have we thought, what if…? and we have pondered it without coming to any conclusion. Well, that is what Cristina sings to us.
Balada Da Despedida, by Fernando Machado Soares
Fernando Machado graduated in Law, was a consulting judge in the Supreme Court of Justice, but part of him always dedicated himself to the arts: he was also a poet, singer, and composer. In 2006 he received the Amália Rodrigues Tribute Award in recognition of his artistic career and dedication to others.
His most famous fado is Balada Da Despedida, which talks about the sadness we feel (or some feel) when we finish university and start a new professional stage, perhaps in a new city. The fear of the unknown and the nostalgia for some years that will not return.
Canção do Mar, by Dulce Pontes
Dulce Pontes is part of World Music, a contemporary musical genre whose goal was to integrate traditional music, popular music, folklore… so that it reached all audiences. Thanks to Dulce’s work, there was a revival of fado in the 90s. She is an artist with a sweet and emotional voice who has collaborated with Ennio Morricone, Elefthería Arvanitáki, or José Carreras.
Canção Do Mar is one of the most covered songs by other fado singers and has also appeared in various audiovisual productions. Dulce’s version has Arab connotations, she sings strongly that ode to the sea, captivating and dangerous at the same time, a sea that sometimes separates us from our home and inspires so much longing.
Fado Do Campo Grande, by Carlos Do Carmo
Fado comes from Carlos Do Carmo’s family; his mother was also a fado singer, and along with his father, she managed a fado house in Lisbon, which Carlos later took over. He participated in Eurovision in 1976 (it didn’t go very well, as usual) with a theme based on a poem by Manuel Alegre and appeared in the film Fados by Carlos Saura, in which Mariza and Camané also participated.
O Fado Do Campo Grande is dedicated to Lisbon, the city where Carlos grew up and lived, to the childhood years he lived there, to all the good memories he keeps, and to the longing for everything that happened and never returns.
Um Contra o Outro, by Deolinda
The Deolinda family group (family because it consists of 2 brothers, the cousin and the husband) is inspired by fado and by great Portuguese fado singers such as Amália Rodrigues, José Afonso or António Variaçoes. But yes, with a personal touch that gives them that originality, sometimes dispensing with the Portuguese guitar and with themes that are usually happy and humorous.
Um Contra o Outro asks that we stop the absurd, meaningless fights in which, even if we win, it feels like we have lost. There are more important things in life that often fly by and it’s better not to regret anything.
(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.