Fado, urban popular song of Portugal was inscribed this month on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
According to UNESCO, “Fado is a performance genre incorporating music and poetry widely practiced by various communities in Lisbon. It represents a Portuguese multicultural synthesis of Afro-Brazilian sung dances, local traditional genres of song and dance, musical traditions from rural areas of the country brought by successive waves of internal immigration, and the cosmopolitan urban song patterns of the early nineteenth century.
Fado songs are usually performed by a solo singer, male or female, traditionally accompanied by a wire-strung acoustic guitar and the Portuguese guitarra – a pear-shaped lute with twelve wire strings, unique to Portugal, which also has an extensive solo repertoire.
The past few decades have witnessed this instrumental accompaniment expanded to two Portuguese guitars, a guitar and a bass guitar. Fado is performed professionally on the concert circuit and in small ‘Fado houses’, and by amateurs in numerous grass-root associations located throughout older neighborhoods of Lisbon.
Informal tuition by older, respected exponents takes place in traditional performance spaces and often over successive generations within the same families. The dissemination of Fado through emigration and the world music circuit has reinforced its image as a symbol of Portuguese identity, leading to a process of cross-cultural exchange involving other musical traditions.”