Um símbolo de altruísmo
Tem como fim condenar
Deus, pátria e militarismo
O mundo há-de assitir
Aos pobres livres do jugo
Espezinhar é o futuro
Da burguesia a surgir
E depois quando existir,
Esplendor e bem-estar
Incitar o patriotismo
Mas o povo subjugado
Esfacela-se sob a tortura
Quando o seu mal tinha cura
O ideal desejado
Viver na prisão
Nas garras dos inimigos
Ai ela bem cai no abismo
A fanática humanidade
Pois fia-se nesta trindade
A symbol of altruism
Has a goal to condemn
God, country and militarism
The world shall behold
The poor free from oppression
Smashing the butchers
Of the ruling bourgeoisie
They shall see the birth
Of the ideal that will bring
Enlightenment and well-being
And promote true patriotism
Misery is what anarchism condemns
The subdued people
Get torn apart and tortured
While there's a cure for this evil
In the desired ideal
They live as martyrs
In the talons of servitude
The social abyss deepens
The fanaticism of humanity
Relies on the trinity of God, country and the military
Artigo do The Guardian sobre o Fado
It's said that the fascist dictatorship that dominated Portugal for nearly half a century was bolstered by the three Fs - football, Fatima and fado. Football was best exemplified by the all-conquering Benfica side of the early 1960s, while Fatima referred to the Portuguese town where three teenagers are believed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary, establishing the sanctity of Portugal.
And then there's the fado, Portugal's most famous musical form. It's forever associated with the tremulous voice of Amalia Rodrigues (1920-1999), who appeared dressed in a black shawl to sing dramatic, minor-key ballads in a remarkable voice, sounding like she was on the verge of tears. But for some, it's a sound forever tarnished by its association with fascism. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, many on the Portuguese left saw the fado as something shameful. It was seen, at best, as a conservative outlet for national misery, at worst as an authorised voice for Catholic fascism.
"Young Portuguese deserted the fado in the 1970s," says singer Mariza, part of a new wave of fado singers, or fadistas, who have reclaimed the genre in recent years. "It had too many bad associations. Only now can we revisit this music."
Amalia become something of a scapegoat for fado's perceived fascist flirtations. Her ascendance to international celebrity in the 1940s unfortunately coincided with the rise of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who ruled Portugal between 1932 and 1968, the dictatorship continuing under the leadership of Marcelo Caetano until the peaceful "carnation revolution" of 1974.
Amalia unwittingly encouraged an association with the regime. She confessed to having a crush on Salazar, even writing poems to him in hospital before his death in 1968. In the aftermath of the 1974 revolution, she was falsely accused of being an agent for Salazar's secret police, a slur that stuck for many years, while many were suspicious of her association with Salazar's minister of culture, Antonio Ferro, who championed her work and presented her around the world as an ambassador for Portugal. She was certainly treated well by the regime, at a time when many singers, songwriters and poets were being imprisoned as dissidents.
However, if Salazar's regime used Amalia and the fado as a symbol of national identity in the 1950s and 60s, they did so with great reluctance. Salazar hated the fado. He referred to Amalia as "the little creature", and struggled with fado's central trope of saudade, the sense of nostalgia, yearning or longing that dominates its lyrics, regarding it as essentially anti-modern. In 1952, he told his biographer Christine Garnier that fado "has a softening influence on the Portuguese character", one that "sapped all energy from the soul and led to inertia". But even he could not quell fado's popularity.
"The regime did not use the fado as a tool for propaganda," says fado historian Michael Colvin, assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Marymount Manhattan College in New York. "Rather, the fado's popularity had become such that the government had no choice but to make the song a part of the consecrated national repertoire. Through censorship, Salazar insured that it did not blatantly contradict the regime's notion of progress; and by promoting the 'poor but happy' - pobrete mas alegrete - image of Lisbon's fadistas and degraded popular neighbourhoods, the government kept the potentially subversive song at bay."
"The dictatorship's relationship with fado roughly splits into two stages," says Simon Broughton, editor of the world music magazine Songlines, and director of an upcoming BBC4 documentary on fado. "From the start of the regime in 1926, Salazar dismissed it as a disreputable, lower-class, unsuitable form of music. But, from the second world war onwards, they changed tack. Fado was still massively popular, so it had to be co-opted to the government's own ends. So, while there was no outwardly fascist fado, censorship certainly neutered it in that period. The subject matter became very traditional - about wine, women, song, family and church - extolling very conservative and unchallenging images of Portugal."
By doing so, the censors sought to eradicate the fado's progressive history. Fado musicians such as the great guitarist Armandinho played at Communist party rallies in the 1920s and 30s, while the song form was explicitly used by socialist and anarchist poets in the early decades of the 20th century. Those militant songs were eradicated by Salazar's censorship laws, but the radical tradition was kept - albeit more subtly - by songwriters in the 1960s.
Contrary to her reputation as a fascist sympathiser, Amalia often tapped into fado's radical tradition. She stayed one step ahead of the censors by singing slyly subversive songs with lyrics by leftwing poets such as Ary dos Santos, Manuel Alegre, Alexandre O'Neill and David Mourao Ferreira. She was also a generous donor to underground anti-fascist political organisations, especially the National Committee to Assist Political Prisoners.
Ruben de Carvalho, a journalist and member of the central committee of the Portuguese Communist party, says Amalia's motivations were always innocent. "She gave money to anti-fascist organisations in the same passionate and, perhaps, naive way she used when she thanked her Salazarian benefactors who gave her, a simple plebeian, the chance to appear on a stage, handling a microphone." Mario Soares, a former socialist prime minister and president in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, described her as a "a conservative woman, believing in God and naturally apolitical, who knew how to get along well with the revolution of the carnations". When Amalia died in 1999, her rehabilition was complete. The state declared three days of national mourning, and she was buried as a hero in Lisbon's National Pantheon.
Amalia's memoirs suggest a simple and apolitical figure. "We never complained about life," she writes. "Sure, we knew there were people who were different from us, otherwise there would be no revolutions. But I never heard anybody talk about that. It's the privileged classes who discuss that type of thing, not the poor."
It has been argued that fado is essentially a reactionary artform. The word translates, loosely, as "fate", and fado songs always have a belief in the inevitability of destiny. "The belief that you can't choose your own fate can be a very conservative stance," says Broughton. "And Amalia was certainly conservative."
The irony is that Amalia's recordings - especially the crackly old 78s from the 1940s and 50s - still sound eerily futuristic and utterly international in their scope. While the fascists used it as a symbol of Portuguese nationalism, the fado actually channelled hundreds of years of influences from around the Lusophone world and beyond. The rattling sound of a Portuguese guitarra - a 12-string, pear-shaped lute - can sound like an autoharp, an Alpine zither, or a bazouki, while the music can often sound like Greek rebetika, Brazilian choro, Cuban son, Andalucian flamenco or Sephardic folksong. And Amalia's insolent voice can sound variously like a Bollywood singer, an Arabic muezzin, a soul diva, or even, on several tracks, uncannily like Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons.
The innovative musical template laid down by Amalia has been the inspiration for a new generation of fado singers. Madredeus, a Portuguese collective fronted by singer Teresa Salgueiro, have taken the fado into groundbreaking electronic territory, while songs associated with Amalia have been interpreted by young singers including Katia Guerreiro, Margarida Bessa, Misia, Cristina Branco, Joana Amendoeira and, most famously, Mariza, who has broadened the genre's scope by sourcing consciously impure influences from jazz, African, Brazilian, gospel and classical music.
In many ways, all of them are reconnecting to the pre-Salazarist fado, celebrating its vagabond ancestry and its international roots. When a Portuguese writer described the fado, in 1926 as "a song of rogues, a hymn to crime, an ode to vice, an encouragement to moral depravity, an unhealthy emanation from the centres of corruption, from the infamous habitations of the scum of society", he identified a set of associations that a new generation of fadistas wear like a badge of honour.
Artigo de Simon Broughton publicado na revista inglesa NewStateman
The international success of the fado singer Mariza has brought a new audience to Portugal's most distinctive music. In Lisbon, the clubs in the historic fado districts are flourishing, frequented by locals and visitors alike. Traditionally, the melancholic sound of fado is said to be associated with saudade, or longing (the word fado literally means "fate"). Amália Rodrigues, the most celebrated fado singer of them all, said in 1994: "The Portuguese invented fado because we have a lot to complain about. On one side we have the Spanish with their swords; on the other side there's the sea, which was unknown and fearful. When people set sail we were waiting and suffering, so fado is a complaint."
It came as a surprise, therefore, to find a political side to the music, as I did while making a BBC documentary about the history of fado, going out later this month. Take these lyrics from an anonymous anarchist fado from around 1920: "The world shall behold/The poor free from oppression/Smashing the butchers/Of the ruling bourgeoisie." I found out that the militant roots of fado had been airbrushed from history, only to be rediscovered in recent years.
Old Lisbon is where fado was born in the early 19th century, in the districts of Alfama and Mouraria, which were populated by traders, sailors and fishing families. The Portuguese royal family spent the Napoleonic Wars in exile in Rio de Janeiro, which became the capital of the Portuguese empire from 1808-21. They returned with a whole retinue of Brazilians and Afro-Brazilians, and as such Lisbon has long had a multiracial and assi milado population. Fado (also the name of an Afro-Brazilian dance) was heard in the taverns and brothels of the city's working-class areas. Its first star was a young prostitute called Maria Severa (1820-46), who had a notorious affair with the Count of Vimioso, an aristocratic bullfighter, and introduced fado to high society. Many fado lyrics refer to her by name ("Fado da Severa" is one of the most famous), and both a stage show of 1901 and Portugal's first all-talking sound film, A Severa (1931), were dramatisations of her life.
To Portugal's leading fado historian Rui Vieira Nery, the lyrics of "Fado da Severa" and "Fado Choradinho" ("Fado of the Unfortunate"), written in the mid-19th century, underline the genre's connection to the Lisbon underclass. "There are several texts that were clearly written by people who had been in jail for long periods and this zigzag between legal and illegal lifestyles is very present in those early fados," he explains. It is Nery, with his book Para uma História do Fado ("Towards a History of Fado"), who has surprised even the Portuguese with the secret history of the music they thought they knew so well. "By the late 19th century, fado was essentially a working-class song - very politically committed. You had fados talking about Kropotkin, Bakunin, Marx - and even Lenin later on." One socialist fado from 1900 begins: "May 1st!/Forward! Forward!/O soldiers of freedom!/Forward and destroy/National borders and property."
Such militant fados remained underground, although the more respectable theatrical fado revista ("revue") was popular with the middle classes. In 1882, the cartoonist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro criticised fado singers (and by implication the Portuguese people), through the character of Zé Povinho ("Poor Zé"), for being too passive and playing whatever song was placed in front of them. The following year, however, another of his cartoons showed politicians at a fado tavern dancing to Zé Povinho's music, but knocking him over in the end. It is clear that, far from being simply nostalgic and sentimental, fado included social and political commentary.
In 1926, after years of political instability, Zé Povinho and the Portuguese people really were knocked over by a coup d'état that installed a fascist dictatorship (led by António Salazar from 1932-68) which lasted nearly half a century. "By the mid-1920s, when the coup took place, fado was for the most part a left-wing, working-class, socialist-oriented type of song," says Nery. "But of course, in a fascist dictatorship, this wouldn't do." In 1927, laws were introduced subjecting all lyrics to censorship. Songs that had not been approved could not be sung in public. "The regime didn't trust fado," Nery says. "It was originally sung by people of ill-repute - prostitutes, thieves and marginals - and that did not carry great prestige for a song of national identity." A 1927 cartoon by Alonso entitled "A Sad, Miserable Life", shows two fadistas, one of them singing, "Cry, politicians, cry", over a subtitle that reads: "O fado, you used to be fado." The implication is that fado has been emasculated. In 1936 the regime ran a series of radio broadcasts entitled Fado, the Song of the Defeated, in effect consigning the genre to history.
But after the Second World War, with fado as popular as ever, the regime decided to change tack. "They decided to cultivate a strategy of public relations with the Portuguese people," says Nery. "They encouraged lyrics about popular traditions, about love, about family life with no concern for politics. And those were lyrics that fado adopted very easily, so there was a certain tacit alliance between the regime and the fado world." As left-wing opposition to the fascists grew during the colonial wars of the 1960s, it was said that the pillars supporting them were the "three big Fs" - fado, football and Fatima (referring to the popular shrine of the Virgin Mary at Fatima). A cartoon by João Abel Manta from 1970 depicts the ghost of Augusto Hilário, a celebrated fado singer/songwriter from Coimbra who died in 1896, floating over Coimbra Castle, suggesting that true fado was long dead.
When the revolution came in 1974, it was felt that fado had been tainted by the former regime and it fell out of favour for a decade or more. It was only during the 1990s that a younger generation felt able to turn to the music again and give it new life. Most of them are probably unaware of its political origins. But if you go to one of the fado tavernas such as Tasca do Chico, as Mariza sometimes does when she's in Lisbon, you can hear ordinary taxi drivers singing fado, surrounded by peeling posters and football scarves. This so-called fado vadio (amateur or "vagabond" fado) is a reminder of the lost, radical tradition.