Portugal is not known for producing music. Indeed, “Fado”, a Portuguese traditional music style that is mandatory to listen to when you visit the most southwestern country of Europe, has been declared intangible world heritage by Unesco in 2011. Fado is famous and recognized worldwide, although you can only listen to it through Portuguese radios and TV channels, which might explain why only experts know about it most of the time.
There are famous Portuguese bands (mostly rock and heavy metal bands) such as Moonspell, Blasted Mechanism and Dead Combo with fans all over the world. Obviously, they are not as famous as the legendary Rolling Stones, U2 or Coldplay. Portugal is still waiting for the emergence of a prodigy in the world of music.
But this lack of recognition doesn’t mean that there are no famous or interesting Portuguese songs. Quite the contrary, listening to Portuguese artists gives you the chance to discover a music that can be inspiring and surprising at the same time!
Look up to 3 chosen examples of Portuguese music after a short description of the main Portuguese genre: Fado (traditional/folk), Rock/Pop and Pimba (popular music).
Fado means fate, destiny in English. It is a music genre very popular in Portugal. Its mournful rhythm and lyrics intends to transmit feelings of loss and longing. We can track Fado since the beginning of the 18th century and the voice of the icon singer “Amália Rodrigues” who died in 1999 (labeled as the “Queen of Fado”) touched the heart of many souls around the world.
There are 2 main types of Fado, which have the name of 2 important Portuguese cities: Lisbon Fado and Coimbra Fado. The first one is better known (headed by Amália Rodrigues) whereas the second one is connected to the city’s oldest university. Recently we also have seen an emerging modern Fado, which is being well received by the younger generation of Portugal (the Portuguese singer Mariza is the most important name in this Fado variety hand-in-hand with Dulce Pontes).
Famous Songs:Amália Rodrigues
"Uma Casa Portuguesa"
Paulo de Carvalho
"Lisboa menina e moça"
"Oh gente da minha terra"
The Portuguese rock scene only started to be active after 1974 (when the fascist dictatorship collapsed). Until then, there were bands (such as “Quinteto Académico”), who mostly played in discos, clubs and student associations, and were influenced mostly by American and British artists such as the Beatles. During the following years, Portuguese rock underwent great changes and was gradually replaced by folk music and protest songs as a result of the new artistic freedom that could be enjoyed in the country after years of political oppression.
In the 1970s, important progressive rock bands came up (such as Quarteto 1111, Tantra and José Cid) achieving success with the release of the hit “Ascenção e Queda”, a kind of rock opera by Petrus Castrus.
Portuguese rock hit the charts in the 80s with the rock artist Rui Veloso and his popular rock album “Ar de Rock”), which inspired the development of successful groups such as Taxi, Heróis do Mar, GNR and the emergence of Xutos & Pontapés, the biggest rock success in Portugal who will celebrate more than 30 years of career.
In the 90s, synthpop started to become popular among the Portuguese audience as well as alternative and indie rock but in the three major rock bands managed to stay at the top of their career (Rui Veloso, GNR, Xutos & Pontapés). This decade was known as the golden age of heavy metal, alternative and underground rock, played by bands with international recognition, such as Moonspell and Blasted Mechanism. Pop/rock, headed by Blind Zero and Silence 4, was also a music genre with significant importance.
In the first decade of the 21st century we have been observing the emergence of some new projects (Toranja, Amor Electro, Mesa, Clã) and the continuation of established rock/heavy bands originally from the 80s and 90s (Rui Veloso, Xutos & Pontapés, Moonspell, Blasted Mechanism, Mão Morta).
"não há estrelas no céu rui veloso"
Xutos & Pontapés
"Circo de Feras"
Pimba is a Portuguese term for a variety of popular Portuguese pop and folk solo singers and bands, who focus on simplistic catchy songs with rough lyrics frequently driven by metaphors with sexual meanings, or focused on basic and clichéd romantic stories.
The word Pimba is a slang term and until the 80s was used to express accomplishment of an action or an unexpected event (like “wham” in English). The Pimba music singer Emanuel launched a hit in the 90s with the term “pimba” expressing the movement of the sexual act. He was then followed by a famous singer of this genre of music, Quim Barreiros, who also used this term in his songs, which led Portuguese people to call this music variety as: “Música Pimba”. Some of the major names are Emanuel, Ágata, Suzana, Micaela, Ruth Marlene and Quim Barreiros. It mixes old-style sounds with accordion, Latin blows and funny/kitch lyrics.
"E nós pimba"
"Quero Cheirar o teu bacalhau"
"Eu tenho 2 amores"
In this article we wrote about famous Portuguese songs and made an overview of how three of the main Portuguese music genres have emerged and developed over time. We could have extended this theme to the other countries that speak Portuguese, and have a look at the differences between them! Part of the differences within the Portuguese community area result of the different Portuguese accents and vocabulary used by them, but they are mainly due to the contact of Portuguese culture with the culture of these countries.
If you want to learn more about this subject or any other related to the Portuguese language, have a look at other articles on our blog. Portuguese Connection language school will also always be available to help you: go to our contact page to write down our e-mails and phone numbers!