Portugal has a rich musical culture, with roots that go back to Provencal troubadours, followed by ballads and the fado, and as of late, incorporating the rhythms of Portugal's former West African colonies.
Each of these elements are stll alive in current Portuguese music like the French Provencal influence in the folk music played at festivals in the northern part of the country, as well as the rock and jazz most prevalent in the larger cities. An additional element is added by a wealth of singer-songwriters, most of whom spawned from the extremely political 'New Song' movement. This movement began rolling during the 1970's when the country threw off a thirty year dictatorship under Salazar, and was forced to withdraw from its colonies.
folk music, there are a wide variety of instruments. Some of the most common include bagpipes, harmonicas, accordions, flutes, drums (adufes, bombos, caixas, pandeiros, sarroncas), and numerous percussion instruments (ferrinhos, genebres, reco-reco, trancanholas). However, Portugal is most well-known for its string instruments: violins, twelve-stringed "Portuguese guitar", and six variations of "viola-guitars" unknown to other European countries. Design, character, and tuning are unique to each one of the viola-guitars. The most well known is the small, four-stringed cavaquinho. The others have elaborate combinations of single, double, and even triple strings.
One of the common combinations of instruments is the zes-pereira. Comprised of a large bombo, a caixa, and a bagpipe or fife, these are often used to announce special occasions. Another tradition combination popular throughout the country is the rancho, made up of violins, guitars, clarinets, harmonicas and ferrinhos, later joined by the accodion.
The singers of Porgtugal are excellent. In every town there is an amateur choir. It is customary for someone to begin an acappella following a good meal, and others at the the table will join in. It not at all unusual, if you go to a fado performance, to find the enitre staff of the establishment taking part, from the owner to the person working the coatroom. To listen to a vocal ensaemble of three women from Manhouce, or a male choir from Alentejo is to hear genuinely popular roots music. Alentejo is home to the saia as well, sung by women as they play the pandeireta. Since Portugal is mostly a rural society, and is largely unaffected by industrialisation, there are a number of songs the reflect the cycles of nature, such as natal, reis and janeiras. These are often lullabies, or tilling, sowing, and harvest songs.
They also have singing contests where competitors improvise on a theme in turn, or the fandango, a dance where two men match their dancing skill. Other traditional dances inclue modas, despiques, chulas, rusgas, corridinhos, viras, waltzes, and the ritual steps of the pauliteiros (stick-dancers) of Miranda in the Douro region.
The fado is Portugal's most famous type of music. It is lyrical and very sentimental, and likely to have stems from African slave songs, though Portugal's own maritime and colonial past is equally noticeable .
After the revolution in 1974, when the empire was dispelled, the fado went through what could be called a crisis. Today, it has come to be identified with an overall sense of frustration.
There are two versions of the fado. The first of which is style of the Alfama and Mouraria districts of Lisbon which is played mostly in the Bairro Alto clubs. It is highly personal and full of feeling. The Coimbra style is much more academic, played mostly by students, and reflects the ancient university traditions of the city. In either style, fado songs are usually about love, though there have been songs written on other subjects.
By far, the most famous of the fado singers, and arguable its greatest performer, is Amalia Rodrigues. She can be seen a prestige clubs and concerts in Lisbon, though in...
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