Music is an integral part of Portuguese heritage and communicates Portugal’s life and soul to the world. While visiting the family home of a Portuguese friend, or attending a festival, there are a few classical songs that you’re likely to hear. From hauntingly beautiful fado to hip-shaking pimba and even rock, here are some of the most time-honored songs.
To top this list, there is perhaps no singer better than Portugal’s sweetheart Amália Rodrigues, also known as the “Queen of Fado”. Her strong yet beautiful voice portrayed the essence of fado, melancholic and sad at times and hopeful at others. When she died in 1999, the country went into three days of mourning. Uma Casa Portuguesa (A Portuguese House) is a song that describes the simplicity, humility, and love felt within a Portuguese home.
Xutos e Pontapés have been described as the Portuguese Rolling Stones, a homage that shows their popularity in the Portuguese-speaking world. Established just a few short years after the Carnation Revolution and the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship in Portugal, they helped shine a new light on Portugal’s freedoms and music, and their first album was released in 1982. Although they are still together today, the band suffered a tragic loss in 2017 when one of their founding bandmates and notable guitarist Zé Pedro passed away. Here is the video for Ai Se Ele Cai (Oh If He Falls, in English), one of their most popular songs.
Another fado superstar is Mariza, recognized by her powerful voice as well as her pixie blonde hair. Born in Mozambique, she moved to Portugal with her family at a young age and was raised in Alfama, the reputed birthplace of fado music. Ó Gente da Minha Terra describes the feelings and emotions behind fado, in particular, those of sadness, and how the music links the Portuguese to each other. The words were written by Amália Rodrigues, but it is Mariza who brings the lyrics to life with her voice, capturing the hearts of everyone who hears it.
The Portuguese will find any reason to organize a festival and where there is dancing, there is usually pimba. A mix of modern pop and folk music, pimba is most popular in the countryside but the upbeat tempos and comedic lyrics are often heard in the cities too. Many songs have more than the slightest hints of sexual innuendos and Emanuel’s pimba, pimba is no different, but it mostly describes the importance of treating the women in your life well (hear, hear!).
We mentioned the Portuguese band that has been compared to the Rolling Stones; now let’s spotlight the Portuguese singer who has actually sung with Mick Jagger. Ana Moura is one more phenomenal and world-renowned fadista who has helped spread fado to an international scale and Os Búzios is one of her most popular and haunting melodies. Os Búzios, meaning Seashells, is a lyrical poem steeped in sadness and reflecting solitude.
Michel Teló may be from Brazil but his Ai Se Eu Te Pego hit it big around the world, especially in Portugal and international Portuguese-speaking communities. Translating to “Oh If I Get You”, this semi-cheesy and flirtatious dance song has an addictive beat and is an undeniable earworm.
Soft rock and blues singer Rui Veloso grew up in Porto, and Porto Sentido is a lovely song that can be interpreted as the feeling one gets upon returning home. Translated, the title means “Sensing Porto”. Released at the end of the 1980s, the song describes a side of the city different to the artistic and tourist hub known today, more familiar to the older generations who grew up in Porto.