What gives national music its distinct character? The great Leonard Bernstein answered this question in one of his Young People’s Concerts:
“[…] folk songs reflect the rhythms and accents and speeds of the way a particular people talks: in other words, their language — especially the language of their poetry — sort of grows into musical sounds. And those speaking rhythms and accents finally pass from folk-music into what we call the art-music, or opera or concert-music of a particular people; and that is what makes Tchaikovsky sound Russian or what makes Verdi sound Italian, or what makes Gershwin sound American.”
Portuguese is a language with closed vowels and shh sounds that can come across as Slavic. Our theory is that these traits emerged over time as a defense strategy against Spanish invasions. When the Spaniards, used to the open vowels and crisp enunciation inherited from the Latin, came to Portugal, they couldn’t understand the local language. As a result, they went back to Spain and left us alone since 1640.
If you’re traveling in Portugal, we invite you to use our Spotify playlist of local music as your soundtrack:
It is an eclectic list that includes classic fados from the great Amália Rodrigues but also the work of a wonderful new generation of fado singers that includes Ana Moura, Carminho, and Mariza. It features folk-inspired music by Trovante and instrumental music ranging from an elegant sonata by the 18th-century composer Carlos Seixas to a joyous rendition of dance music on accordion.
We hope this music, infused with the rhythms and accents of the Portuguese language, will enrich your journey through Portugal.