Playing the Lisbon Portuguese Guitarra by Ronald Louis Fernandez (continued)

Section 19. Fado Castiço (Fado Tradicional) and Fado Canção (musicated or composed Fado)

There are a few hundred old traditional fado melodies which are well known to the community of fadistas and fado audiences. Most of these fado melodies are known by particular names such as Fado Vitoria or Fado Bailado. In 1999, about 120 of these melodies were collected by Antonio Parreira and written down by Maestro Jorge Machado (see the bibliography section below). In 2005 a collection of 16 CDs was issued by Movieplay under the title Todos os Fados. In volume 16 (page 34) of this collection fado historian Daniel Gouveia notes that 411 fados are now recognized to exist.

The composer of some of these Traditional Fados melodies is not known. But there are many whose composer is  known.  For example, the melody called "Fado Bailado" is credited to Alfred Marceneiro. Associated with this melody are verses entitled "Estanha Forma de Vida" some of these verses were written the singer by Amalia Rodrigues.

In commercial popular music, words and melodies are legally linked and their authors protected by copyright laws. In traditional fado, the melody and the words can be independent of one another. More simply, singers are free to draw from a body of traditional melodies and then sing whatever words they wish. This fact becomes evident as you listen to fado recordings and hear the same embellished melody used by different singers to accompany their own verses. In a sense, fadistas are continually reinventing the fado by drawing on the traditional music ideas and composing new words. What this means is that the accompanying guitarist never knows what verse a fado singer will put to a particular melody. Clearly for an aspiring fado guitarist, the central task becomes one of learning the corpus of traditional melodies so he can easily accompany any fado singer.

Learning the traditional fado melodies pays off doubly for the musicians because they can also use these old traditional melodies for guitarradas which are their personal instrumental compositions. The Fado Lopes is a well known instrumental  in the Fado world. It is sometimes called Variation in E minor. Armandinho, Chainho, Jose Nunes and other greats have developed fascinating variations on this piece. The original Fado Lopes was composed by Mário José Lopes. (aka Jose Lopes) early in the 20th century. It was been reworked by singers as well as instrumentalists,  the great Fadista Fernando Farinha has written and sung words for this piece, his version was called Vidas Trocas (listen to it on YouTube.

The existence of a body of traditional, well-known melodies gives a coherence to the realm fado music. Nevertheless, the liberty to change words or embellish the melodies gives the Fado a special freedom to evolve.

The literature on Fado extends back to the 19th century. It is beyond me to review that literature but there are a few topics I should mention

There are a number of ways in which commentators distinguish kinds of Fados.

1. The first one is the difference between Lisbon Fado and Coimbra Fado. The 19th century Lisbon fado is related to the working class barrios on Lisbon. The Coimbra Fado is associated with student serenades sung in the university city of Coimbra in central Portugal.

2. The difference between  Fado Castiço (Fado Tradicional) and Fado Canção (Fado Song). Traditional Fado goes back to the early 19th century, the melody is tied to a repeated stanza. In contrast the Fado Canção is a composed fado  which has a stanza and a verse.  April in Portugal, which is known in Portugal as Coimbra, is an example of Fado Canção. Interesting that the song is called Coimbra yet is not a "Coimbra Fado".  Fado Conde Anadia which was a great hit in the 19th century is an example of a 19th century traditional fado. I believe Luis Penedo use to refer to Fado Canção as a "Musicated" Fado. It was a form associated with Music Hall Theatre as opposed to Fado Castiço  which was associated with tavern culture.

3. There are some literary scholars who classify fados according to their poetic structure. This is a classification based on the number of lines per stanza and the number of syllables per line.  Quadras have 4 lines, , Quintilhas have 5 lines.
Sextilhas have 6 lines. Setessílabo have 7 syllables, Decassíabo have 10 syllables. The very basic Fado Menor has 4 lines with usually 7 syllables per line, I often count 8 syllables which I assume has to do with pronouciation or stylist differences. It really does not matter as along as the words fit  close to the music structure.   It is good for a player to be aware of the poetic structure of the song because it is can affect the manner of accompanying.  Obviously, melody length and number of syllables and accompaniment must be in sync. A singer cannot be using 12 syllables to a musical arpeggio which will only fit 7 or 8 syllables. 

4. The predecessors of Lisbon Fado. The modinho and the lundum (also lundu) are two 18th century music forms which are closely related to the early fado. Two hundred years  ago there were related forms of Brazilian and Portuguese modinhos--this is understandable as there was constant traffic across the Atlantic Ocean between Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. There are writers who also credit the fofa, the fandango and a Brazilian dance called the Fado (which has questionable links with the sung fado) as roots of the fado. Whether the dance fado is  an important ancestor of the modern fado I think is interesting but unimportant as it was not important enough to continue. The great Pedro Caldeira Cabral told me after lunch one day that fado is essentially a Lisbon style modinho. My opinion is that the Fado has many ancestors but it evolved within the environment of Lisbon into its own unique and changing form.

5. There are several writers who have suggested that the core Fados are Fado Corrido Maior, Fado Menor and Fado Mouraria. It is unknown whether these are the oldest fados but nevertheless they are very important 19th century forms. Rather than particular songs they are song forms. They are associated with poetry which is 4 lines, with 7 syllables. There is no set melody. There are typical harmonic (chord) patterns. They each have typical arpeggio patterns. I assume that some Fado scholars can identify more aspects which characterize these forms, but for me as a musician these are what I am consciously aware of.

The reader can easily find more info on-line about these topics.

Also, see  Rui Vieira Nery's 2012 book A History of Portuguese Fado (ISBN: 978-972-27-2024)  or the Portuguese language original, Para Uma História do Fado, 2004  (ISBN: 972-8892-32-2). Daniel Gouveia has much to say on such matters in his Ao Fado Tudo se Canta?, 2010 (ISBN: 978-989-8135-40-7). Donald Cohen's book, Fado Português: Songs from the soul of Portugal, 2003 (ISBN: 0-7119-8229-5)

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