Fado: The Music of Lisbon to Become the Music of the World?

Fado, LisbonWhile most people are familiar with World Heritage Sites — the places and monuments around the world of great cultural significance (Lisbon has two: Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery) — many don’t yet know that UNESCO is now also protecting “intangible heritage,” meaning cultural traditions of international importance. The tango has already been singled out for that honor a few months ago, and come 2011 the same may happen to Lisbon’s Fado. UNESCO will be studying that possibility this upcoming August and Lisbon’s music may be on the list late next year. Lisbon is one of the few cities in the world with its own musical style, one that has come to symbolize the soul of the entire country. While its origins are unknown, historians claim it is the blending of songs sung by homesick sailors at sea, combined with the slave dances of Brazil, and the Moorish chants heard in Lisbon’s Mouraria throughout the centuries. Fado (meaning “fate”) was originally singled out as a musical genre in the 18th century when it was heard in the brothels of Lisbon, usually sung by the lower classes. With the emergence of famous Fado singers over the years (first Maria Severa and then Amália Rodrigues in the 20th century), Fado went slightly upmarket and spread throughout Portugal and the world. Today’s young Fado singers such as Mariza top world music charts and perform all over the globe. Unlike tango, it is not a dance, but more like dramatic, poetic singing. For more information on Fado, see GoLisbon’s Fado page.

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