Music in Portugal

Music in Portugal


The history of Portuguese music began with strong influence from Ancient Rome’s musical tradition.  It was also influenced by the European traditions.  Classical music in Portugal was strongly defined by composers such as Pedro de Escobar, Duarte Lobo, Carlos Seixas, and many more.  During this period, organist music was extremely popular and notable composers include Antonio Carreira and Manuel Rodrigues Coelho.  Singers of the time include Luisa Todi, Elisabete Matos and Jose Carlos Xavier.  There were several famous pianists as well.  Maria Joao Pires and Sequeira Costa are among them.  Guilhermina Suggia was a famous cello player of classical music as well.  This list includes past and present influences on modern Portuguese classical music.


Fado Style


Portuguese folk music is perhaps best known for Fado.  Fado originated in Lisbon as the music of the urban poor.  The music style is defined by harsh lyrics and sad feelings by the singer.  The singer tells a story about being resigned to poverty and loneliness while remaining dignified.  One famous Fado singer in Portugal today is Mariza. This style of music is often sung along with a Portuguese guitar.


Student Fado, performed by students at Coimbra University, has maintained its tradition since Augusto Hilário pioneered it in the 1890s. Fado became an internationally popular genre in 1939.  This was largely due to the career of Amalia Rodrigues.  She was a singer and a film actress.  She made stylistic innovations to the music of Fado.  She was possibly the most influential Fadista of all time.


Modern Fado continues the tradition.  Famous current fado musicians include Mariza, Misia and Camane.  They have introduced the music all over again to the world.  Some of the best new male Fado singers are Ricardo Ribeiro and Miguel Capucho.




The music of Portugal has always played a strong role in expressing the people’s feelings about national politics.  Political musicians were pursued by police and persecuted.  Some were even exiled, such as Zea Afonso, Paulo de Carvalho and others.  In the 1950’s, Jose Afonso began performing.  He was a roots-based musician and led the Portuguese roots revival.


After the Carnation Revolution, music was used to support Left-Wing parties.  Ideas like equality, freedom, and free education were often in lyrics to songs.  Famous poets like Jose Barata-Moura wrote many of the songs.


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