Flamenco and Fado

Flamenco and Fado

            Flamenco is a type of folk art that originated in Spain particularly in Andalusia - Flamenco and Fado introduction. Originally, Flamenco is known to be the music of the underprivileged or the poor. It has become an oral tradition that is passed down from one artist to another. Because of this, many variations have evolved that resulted to different kinds of rendition of the flamenco such as the seguiriyas and fandangos. The many types of flamenco vary in “melodic, rhythmic and harmonic structures” wherein each type has its own qualities and mood that are unique to a specific region in Spain. Nowadays, Flamenco is considered as a “tripartite art, involving singing, dance and the guitar simultaneously – as well as rhythmic punctuation (by hand-claps and other methods) that is considered an art form in its own right” (Faucher, 2009).   

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            Historically, the Gypsies were the first ones to incorporate Flamenco in their culture of dancing and singing. In the 18th to 19th century, the Gypsies’ traditions and practices were considered unacceptable by the Spanish society. They were even persecuted and tormented because they chose not to conform to the status quo during that period. Many Spaniards did not like and even approve the nomadic lifestyle of the Gypsies. The culture of the Gypsies mainly involved traveling and performing from one place to another. With regards to the development of flamenco, both the Gypsies and Spaniards played a role in this endeavor. The rhythmic sound of the flamenco was combined with Spanish music. The art form created by the Gypsies was slowly getting noticed. However, flamenco reached its speak when “non-Gypsies began to perform” it in public spaces. Because of this, Flamenco suddenly became widely accepted by the Spanish majority. It became very successful as a legitimate form of art. Despite this immense contribution of the Gypsies, they were still not accepted and honored but many believed that they “have always been considered among the best interpreters of the Flamenco arts” (Flamenco-lessons.com, 2006).

            The art of Flamenco is defined as “an expression of life, a communication on the deepest and most profound level” (Flamenco-lessons.com, 2006). A modern example of the flamenco that embodies this statement is the Cante Jondo. This is a form of Flamenco that focuses on the musical depiction of f “death and the pain of love.” Cante Jondo represents an individual’s intense grief and agony over an awful or terrible life experience. The words and the melodies in this type of flamenco are very poignant. According to Edward F, Stanton, Cante Jondo “has probably always been ‘cryptic, occult, secret’… it possesses… the characteristics of traditional music: oral transmission, anonymous origin of music and verses and largely illiterate performers who come from the fringes of society” (Alexander, 2008).

            Meanwhile, another traditional European music is Fado. This form of art originated in Portugal and it is considered as one of the longest in existence of “urban folk music” (World Music Central, 2004). At the time of the inception of fado, Portugal was the melting pot of different cultures (Lisbon Guide). But many believed that fado music originated from an African dance “in the 19th century and was adopted by the poor on the streets of Lisbon.” Basically, fado is a heartrending music that evolves around the story of “destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair.” Like the flamenco, fado is also intended to entertain and to evoke the emotions of its viewers. Another similarity with flamenco is that fado was originally performed in public areas but the difference is fado is executed by skilled fadistas every night. Also, fado is only performed by singers and 1 guitarist while Flamenco is composed of singing, dancing, clapping and playing the guitar. Fado reached its highest point when a Portugese dictator in the early 20th century directed “fado performers to be experts in the Fado art form. Fadistas were also confined to perform only in “fado houses and ‘revistas’ a popular genre of ‘vaudeville’” (World Music Central, 2004). A popular musical example of Fado is Maria Silva’s Fado Britinho. This song was blended with the sound of Spanish and Portugese guitars. But the distinct characteristic of this music is the presence of saudade which represents the reminiscence or the act of yearning for something or for someone. Clearly, Fado has a melancholic way showcasing the intense feelings of desolation and rage (Vernon, 2002).


Alexander, G. (2008).  Flamenco Music. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.afana.org/flamenco.htm

Faucher, F. (2009). History of Flamenco. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.classicalguitarmidi.com/history/flamenco.html

Flamenco-lessons.com. (2006). The History of Flamenco. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.flamenco-lessons.com/history-of-flamenco.asp

Lisbon Guide. (n.d.). The History of Fado. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.lisbon-guide.info/about/fado

Vernon, P. (2002, September 11). A History of the Portuguese Fado. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/fado.htm

World Music Central. (2004, August 6). Fado Music. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://worldmusiccentral.org/staticpages/index.php/fado

The fado is normally sung by men or women and accompanied by one Portuguese guitar and one classic guitar, which in Portugal is called viola. This song reached its golden era in the first half of the 20th century, when the Portuguese dictatorship of Salazar (1926-1968) forced the fado performers to become professional and confined them to sing in the fado houses and the so called “revistas”, a popular genre of “vaudeville”.

The main names of that period were: Alfredo Marceneiro, Amalia Rodrigues, Maria Teresa de Noronha and Armandinho and Jaime Santos (guitar players).

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