The Social Impact of Fado: “The Role of Gender in the Construction of Portuguese National Identity”
Born in Lisbon in the 19th century, fado became indispensably present in various moments of conviviality and leisure. Initially, it was rejected by people who classified themselves as intellectually superior, but after a few years, the musical genre assumed a relevant role in plays, music festivals, and other performance events. With this, fado was gaining greater recognition, and in the first decades of the 20th century, it became more professional by creating a wide range of companies. However, it went through moments where it lost much of its intensity and expressiveness due to the censorship experienced in the country. After the revolution of April 25 and the end of censorship of expression, Fado gradually assumed its central role in Portuguese culture. At the time, only a minority of people in Portugal knew Fado. Portuguese high society argued that the regeneration of society was achieved through folk songs of rural origin that glorified work and religion. Still, with the introduction and emergence of new forms of information transmission (such as radio, record, and cinema), the whole trend changed when the ironic and critical character of fado was perceived. Endowed with a unique melodic personality and an unmistakable sound, highlighting all the talent and musical dexterity of the fado singers, it overcomes any language barrier. It guides anyone who hears it just by the sheer emotion it causes. In a world where millions of people live far away from their countries and cultures, and often the language itself differs, music is the best and strongest uniting factor. Over the decades, fado has allowed millions of children of emigrants who considered themselves Portuguese to connect with their roots and influence native people in their host countries to get to know this musical genre. This internationalization of music began to take shape in the mid-1930s in Brazil and on the African continent, where singers such as Madalena Melo and João Mata became known. However, it was only consolidated definitively in the mid-1950s through the figure of Amália Rodrigues. Amália overcame all barriers of culture and language and officially established herself as an icon of national culture, receiving throughout her life protagonism at national and international levels. Fado has acquired such global relevance that in 2011, it was elevated to the category of “Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. Today, fado is known worldwide as part of the Portuguese heritage, a heritage of humanity, and a heritage for all. It is immune to language barriers and guides all who hear it by feeling, a feeling that is found in every word and in every chord of the Portuguese guitar.