Music of Portugal: Wikis


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Portugal is internationally known in the music scene for its traditions of fado, but the country has seen a recent expansion in musical styles, with modern acts from rock to hip hop becoming popular. If Amália is still the most recognizable Portuguese name in music, today the biggest exportations are bands like Moonspell (metal), Madredeus (fado and folk inspired), Buraka Som Sistema (electro/kuduro/breakbeat), Da Weasel (hip hop), Blasted Mechanism (experimental electro-rock) or Wraygunn (rock, blues), and artists like Mariza (fado). The musicality of the Portuguese language has also inspired non-native speakers to use it in their recordings, for example Mil i Maria. Regional folk music remains popular too, having been updated and modernized in many cases, especially the northeastern region of Trás-os-Montes.

Rock, pop, house and hip hop are among the most popular musical styles in Portugal.



Portuguese music was influenced by music from Ancient Rome's musical tradition brought into the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans and the rich artistic Europen tradition. Its genres range from classical to popular music. Portugal's music history includes musical history from the medieval Gregorian chants through Carlos Seixas' symphonies era to the composers of the modern era. Musical history of Portugal can be divided in different ways. Portuguese music encompasses musical production of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern  eras.

Classical music

Portuguese music reflects its rich history and privileged geographical location. These are evidenced in the music history of Portugal, which despite its firm European roots, nevertheless reflects the intercontinental cultural interactions begun in the Portuguese discoveries.

A short list of past and present portuguese musicians with important contributions must necessarily include the names of composers Pedro de Escobar, Manuel Cardoso, Duarte Lobo, Filipe de Magalhães, Carlos Seixas, Diogo Dias Melgás, João Domingos Bomtempo, Marcos Portugal, José Vianna da Motta, Luís de Freitas Branco, Joly Braga Santos, Fernando Lopes-Graça and Emmanuel Nunes; organists such as António Carreira or Manuel Rodrigues Coelho; singers such as Luísa Todi or Elisabete Matos; pianists such as Maria João Pires or Sequeira Costa; cellists such as Guilhermina Suggia.

Folk music


Mariza, a Portuguese fado singer

Fado (fate in Portuguese) arose in Lisbon as the music of the urban poor. Fado songs are typically lyrically harsh, with the singer resigned to sadness, poverty and loneliness, but remaining dignified and firmly controlled.

Many claim that fado origins are much older, back to the 15th century, when women cried with longing for their husbands that went to the never sailed seas; others also claim that Arabic inprint in Fado is visible, especially in instruments. Arabs left Portugal in the 13th century, but their influence in crafts and music prevailed. Fado is often sung with a Portuguese guitar.

Late in the 19th century, the city of Coimbra developed a distinctive fado scene. Coimbra, a literary capital for the country, is now known for being more refined and majestic. The sound has been described as "the song of whose who retain and cherish their illusions, not of those who have irretrievably lost them" by Rodney Gallop in 1936. A related form are the guitarradas of the 1920s and 30s, best known for Dr. Antonio Menano and a group of virtuoso musicians he formed, including Artur Paredes and José Joaquim Cavalheiro. Student fado, performed by students at Coimbra University, have maintained a tradition since it was pioneered in the 1890s by Augusto Hilário.

Starting in 1939 with the career of Amália Rodrigues, fado was an internationally popular genre. A singer and film actress, Rodrigues made numerous stylistic innovations that have made her probably the most influential fadista of all time.

A new generation of young musicians have contributed to the social and political revival of fado music, adapting and blending it with new trends. Contemporary fado musicians like Mariza, Mísia and Camané have introduced the music to a new public. The sensuality of Misia and other female fadistas (fado singers) like Cristina Branco, Ana Moura, Katia Guerreiro, and Mariza has walked the fine line between carrying on the tradition of Amália Rodrigues and trying to bring in a new audience. Mísia and Carlos do Carmo are also well known fado singers.

Traditional music

Regional folk music

Recent events have helped keep Portuguese regional folk (rancho folclórico) traditions alive, most especially including the worldwide roots revival of the 1960s and 70s.


Trás-os-Montes' musical heritage is closely related to the music of Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias. Traditional bagpipes (gaita-de-fole transmontana), a cappella vocals and a unique musical scale with equal semitones have kept alive a vital tradition.

The gaita-de-fole transmontana is similar to the Galician gaita de fol, but has only one drone (like the Asturian bagpipes) and a more variable scale. It is played accompanied only by drums, usually played in a group along with the caixa and bomba, both kinds of drums found also in Galician ensembles.

In this area (Northeast Portugal), in and around Miranda do Douro (Miranda de I Douro), some artists such as Galamdum Galundaina sing in Mirandese language. Also the Pauliteiros folk dance is popular. Some residents sing in both Portuguese and Mirandese. Roberto Leal a Portuguese Brazilian from Northeast Portugal is a good example of a Transmontano artist.

Some Folk groups and singers in Portugal:

Popular music

Famous artists and bands included in the past Tonicha, Paco Bandeira, Paulo de Carvalho, José Cid, Linda de Suza, Duo Ouro Negro, Roberto Leal and Ornatos Violeta. Nowadays some of the most popular acts are Dulce Pontes, Madredeus, GNR, Xutos & Pontapés, The Gift, David Fonseca, Buraka Som Sistema Mil i Maria and Boss AC.

Pimba music

Pimba music is the Portuguese version of the euro Schlager or the Balkan Turbo-Folk. Its name cames from a 90s hit Pimba Pimba. Some of its biggest names are Emanuel, Ágata, Ruth Marlene and Quim Barreiros. This genre mixes traditional sounds with accordion, latin beats and funny or religious (mainly kitch) lyrics.

Political music (Música de Intervenção)

During the reign of the fascist regime music was widely used by the left-wing resistance as a way to say what could not be said, singing about freedom, equality and democracy, mainly through metaphors and symbols. Many composers and singers became famous and persecuted by the political police, some of them being arrested or exiled, such as Zeca Afonso,Paulo de Carvalho, José Mário Branco, Sérgio Godinho, Adriano Correia de Oliveira, Manuel Freire, Fausto, Vitorino, Júlio Pereira and some others.

José Afonso began performing in the 1950s; he was a popular roots-based musician that led the Portuguese roots revival. With artists like Sérgio Godinho and Luís Cília, Afonso helped form nova canção music, which, after the 1974 revolution, gained socially-aware lyrics and became canto livre. The biggest name in canto livre was Brigada Víctor Jara, a group that seriously studied and were influenced by Portuguese regional music.

After the Carnation Revolution, that same music was used to support left-wing parties. Political ideas and causes, like the agrarian reform, socialism, equality, democratic elections, free education and many other were a constant presence in these songs lyrics, often written by well-known poets like José Barata-Moura, Manuel Alegre or Ary dos Santos.


The highest exponents of this kind of music in Portugal are Tony Carreira and Marco Paulo.


This is a relatively new sound in Portugal. Despite being an Iberian country, Portugal never had clear influences from the Caribbean beats. This style came to the country in the 90s, following a Spanish and world trend. Examples of Latin music singers in Portuguese are Ana Malhoa and Mil i Maria.

Modern acts


With immigration from the former colonies, Portugal received many African communities with their different traditional sounds. Some singers were born in Lisbon but still, were singing African influenced music. Two examples are Lura and Sara Tavares, who sing a mixture that includes sounds from Cape Verde.


People such as Mário Barreiros (drums), Mário Laginha and António Pinho Vargas (piano) and the singer Maria João have long and noteworthy careers in the field, despite experimenting, sometimes with notable success, other genres of music, and a more recent generation is following their footsteps, notable the pianist Bernardo Sassetti, Carlos Bica, João Paulo and the singers Jacinta and Vânia Fernandes.

Reggae and Ska

More underground but very prominent are Portuguese reggae and ska. Some of the more famous bands of these types include Primitive Reason, Three and a Quarter and Purocracy. This music is popular among young people, with its main roots based in Lisbon and the surrounding areas. In 2004/2005, it was a born a wave of Portuguese bands doing noise rock and psych improvisation music, like Fish & Sheep, Kussondulola, Frango, One Love Family, CAVEIRA, Tropa Macaca, Lobster, Dance Damage and DOPO.

Rock and other

The rock in Portugal was born in the 80s of the 20th century. Its beginners were Rui Veloso and Jorge Palma, among others. An example of a popular Portuguese rock band, having a long history, is Xutos & Pontapés who've been playing for over 30 years and are known widely throughout Portugal, as well as Mão Morta with 23 years of existence. Well known solo singers include Rui Veloso, Jorge Palma, and Pedro Abrunhosa. Blasted Mechanism (experimental electro-rock), RAMP (metal), ThanatoSchizO (metal), Faithfull (soft rock), Riding Pânico (post rock), Linda Martini (post/noise rock), Ornatos Violeta (indie rock) or Green Echo (experimental dub) are other important acts.

Portuguese hip hop (Hip Hop Tuga)

The beginning of the 21st century was the origin of a new wave of Portuguese Hip Hop singers, who adapted foreign sounds to the Portuguese reality and who sing in Portuguese. Some of the best examples are Da Weasel, Boss AC and Sam the Kid.

Heavy metal

The biggest exponent of heavy metal music in Portugal is the band Moonspell, originally from Lisboa and who have achieved some international recognition, mainly in Finland, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

Electronic music

In electronica, Underground Sound of Lisbon was a musical project that brought international attention to the Portuguese DJs, namely Rui da Silva - the only Portuguese musician to reach #1 on the UK charts - and DJ Vibe, Pete tha Zouk. Some other important names of this kind of music are Buraka Som Sistema and Micro Audio Waves. In Porto, Drum n' Bass styles are immensely popular, being hometown to numerous talents suck as Nuno Forte and the city has hosted various imporant international names in the genre such as Noisia, The Panacea and Black Sun Empire.

Eurovision participations

Portugal has been participating at the Eurovision Song Contest since 1964, and has yet to win the competition, its best result being the 6th place achieved by Lucia Moniz's folk inspired song "O meu coração não tem cor" in 1996, penned by Pedro Vaz Osorio. In the 2008 edition, Madeira born Vânia Fernandes sung the portuguese entry to second place in the semifinal but only reached a 13th at the grand final, nevertheless being the portuguese entry with the most points earned at Eurovision.

Portuguese singers in the world

Musicians such as Nelly Furtado, Katy Perry, Kenny Rogers, Mariza and Nuno Bettencourt are popular in North America, though of the two only Nelly Furtado reflected some of her Portuguese origin, especially in lesser-known songs in her first albums (songs like "Scared" sung by Furtado in English and Portuguese, "Nas Horas do Dia" and "Força"). Luso-francofonic artists(also of portuguese origin): Linda de Suza and Marie Myriam. Steve Perry, former leader singer of rock group Journey is american of portuguese ancestry.

See also


  • Cronshaw, Andrew and Paul Vernon. "Traditional Riches, Fate and Revolution". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 225–236. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External links

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