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FADO: World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage – UNESCO

FADO: World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage – UNESCO

Fado, Lisbon’s mournful song and the Portuguese most traditional music genre, was added Sunday to UNESCO’s list of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

According to UNESCO, intangible heritage includes traditions and skills passed on within cultures.

The UNESCO’s committee of experts, meeting on Bali island of Indonesia, unanimously praised Fado as an “example of good practices” that should be followed by other countries.

On its website, UNESCO describes Fado as the”urban popular song of Portugal,” stating

Fado is a performance genre incorporating music and poetry widely practised by various communities in Lisbon.

It represents a Portuguese multicultural synthesis of Afro-Brazilian sung dances, local traditional genres of song and dance, musical traditions from rural areas of the country brought by successive waves of internal immigration, and the cosmopolitan urban song patterns of the early nineteenth century.

Fado songs are usually performed by a solo singer, male or female, traditionally accompanied by a wire-strung acoustic guitar and the Portuguese guitar – a pear-shaped lute with twelve wire strings, unique to Portugal, which also has an extensive solo repertoire.

The past few decades have witnessed this instrumental accompaniment expanded to two Portuguese guitars, a guitar and a bass guitar.

Fado is performed professionally on the concert circuit and in small ‘Fado houses’, and by amateurs in numerous grass-root associations located throughout older neighbourhoods of Lisbon.

Informal tuition by older, respected exponents takes place in traditional performance spaces and often over successive generations within the same families.

The dissemination of Fado through emigration and the world music circuit has reinforced its image as a symbol of Portuguese identity, leading to a process of cross-cultural exchange involving other musical traditions.

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