The Sound Of Portugal

Portugal open their Euro 2012 campaign this evening against Germany. Six, eight, ten years ago this would have been a fine contest but its fair to say the team of Cristiano Ronaldo and ten lesser players is not expected to trouble the German machine too much this evening.

Portugal is famous for fado music, which, unusually for folk music, has its roots in cities, notably the port city of Lisbon where many cultures met and merged over the centuries. Fado combines elements of traditional Portugese folk with Moorish and African influences.

Now, the Portugese have a word “saudade”, which has no exact translation in English. Roughly, it means “nostalgia” or “homesickness” but it also implies a bittersweet longing. Strange that English doesn’t include a word for this, as its something the English feel very deeply, especially at times of great national feeling such as – oh, I dunno, the Diamond Jubilee. Or a big football tournament.

“Saudade” pretty much nails the lyrical content of fado music. Songs are often about lost or unrequited love, death and general sadness. The sad, bittersweet lyrics are sung over beautiful plaintive melodies, sung in a wistful, yearning manner.

Despite that description, it doesn’t sound anything like The Smiths. This is Aldina Duarte, quite up-tempo.

Ana Moura, one of Portugal’s best-loved fadistas, with a more wistful song, more typical of the genre:

You can download Ana’s music here:

Other sites are available but iDon’t like them much so iDon’t see why iShould mention them. (you see what iDid there?)

Ana is also on twitter here:!/ana_moura

For every person who follows @AnaMoura on twitter, there are 3 who follow @AnnaCalvi (below)

Moving away from Fado, here are a few random links to Portugese bands you may find interesting.

Classic prog rock band Petrus Castrus :

And another one – Tantra. Bit like early (aka “good”) Genesis. The guy on the far-right makes Peter Gabriel look like Peter Noone.

The Skalibans! This starts off quite promising with a huge brassy punk intro, slips into a respectable ska beat (not too sure about the vocals though). Somebody’s dad had a Dexys album by the sound of it.

Finally, coming full circle in a way, a song called “Saudade” (see above) by Portugal’s biggest rock act of the seventies and eighties, Herois do Mar (Heroes Of The Sea)! Synth pop! With mandolins! – almost a prototype British Sea Power, at least to these ears.

So, a random selection but some excellent sounds there. I’d be interested if you know of any other Portugese music I should be aware of?

That’s all until tomorrow, when I will be “doing” Italy.

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