Music and foreign languages are two areas that are often linked. The first impulse, of course, is to think of English and its impact on popular music throughout the world, and the impact of English-language music on those who want to learn the English language.
According to some studies, up to 93% of the population listens to music, illustrating just how deeply this art form has permeated our lives and our daily lives. Portuguese is one of the 10 languages most commonly spoken in the world – so what kind of music can you listen to in order to learn Portuguese?
Music is very much part of the Lusophone cultural heritage, whether it is folk or traditional music or Brazilian beats. In this article, we won’t be focusing on instrumental pieces – obviously, since you want to learn Portuguese through music – but on some of the most inspiring vocal pieces composed by Portuguese musician
Amalia Rodrigues – Amália da Piedade Rebordão Rodrigues was her full name – was a Portuguese actress and performer who died in 1999. A true icon of Portuguese music, she was called “the Queen of Fado”, mostly because of the nostalgic character of her melodies. She had an enormous impact on Portuguese music and fado music specifically.
Her song Fado Português is the archetype of Amalia’s Lusophone music. A melancholic and melodic tune worthy of the best of folk fados, text that represents the best of saudade, it is one of the finest Rodrigues songs you will ever hear while listening to the radio or your “Portuguese Repertoire” Spotify playlist.
In short, “Fado Português” represents the best of the music of Portugal or Brazil, combining a soulful melody with beautiful lyrics. A good way to practise your Portuguese vocabulary and discover the musical tradition of the fado.
Canção de Madrugar is a song full of joy and the Portuguese spirit, sung by Susana Félix. A classical folk music song, with its pleasant musical style sung by a female voice in the Portuguese tradition, it is a wonderful way to learn Portuguese.
Rua da Saudade is a Portuguese band with wonderful vocals. Photo credit: ::mavi:: on VisualHunt
Far from anything ever sung by Johnny Hallyday, Françoise Hardy, Edith Piaf or Jean Jacques Goldman, Rua da Saudade offers a new view of Portugal’s singing heritage, both traditional and resolutely modern, allowing you to learn to speak Portuguese in an easy and pleasant manner.
Music as a vector for emotions, beautiful lyrics and intense musicality – this is the Portuguese music of today.
Born in Lisboa (Lisbon) in 1989, Salvador Vilar Braamcamp Sobral is mostly known outside of Portugal for his appearance (and victory) at the Eurovision Song Contest of 2017. His song, Amar pelos dois, has become a real YouTube and streaming hit in Europe, and even earned a record amount of points at Eurovision.
Far from electronic music, afro or funk, this song is a hymn to sweetness, a musical voyage borne by the voice of a true virtuoso of Portuguese music, now a true star of the world music scene. With him, you talk, live and feel Portuguese as though you were born and raised on the Iberian peninsula.
Female singers play an important role in Portuguese musical traditions, for example in fado.
A new generation inspired by fado and other classical Portuguese musical traditions, transposed into pop and alternative music and carried by a dynamic, feminine voice – impossible? Not with Mal por mal, a resolutely modern song full of harmony, with Portuguese lyrics and a Portuguese guitar accompaniment.
Deolinda has some wonderful albums for learning the Portuguese language – and discovering Portuguese music. Photo credit: Gustty on VisualHunt
The lead singer’s strong voice is perfect for a fusion style that integrates classical guitar, Rock & Folk, with a little more rhythm – a symphony combining several musical eras and as well as Portuguese and ethnic instrumental sections… A true voyage through time and space!
If you are a fan of French chanson and love Hélène Segara’s Elle, tu l’aimes? you will love this Portuguese song, which had become a classic. Cançao do Mar is nothing more or less than the Portuguese version of the French song. Proof that even French vocal music can be influenced by traditional Portuguese songs.
Dulces Pontes has some beautiful Portuguese songs to study the Portuguese language. Photo credit: adewale_oshineye on Visualhunt
All of Portugal is bundled into one song: love, poetry, ambiance, lyricism and a beautiful voice to deliver it. Far from gospel or children’s rhymes, this song includes many of the distinctive aspects of Portuguese composition.
A music hinting at saudade, but somewhat more festive and rhythmic, more modern – like this classic of Portuguese music.
Beijo is a melancholic tune, simple, without unnecessary embellishments, the vocals accompanied by (almost) nothing but an acoustic piano with just a touch of electronics – that’s the type of music Abrunhosa delivers.
Pedro Abrunhose was born in Porto in the 1960s and is well known in the Portuguese music scene today. Among other things, he founded a school of jazz. His songs tell stories that speak to all of us, whether happy, sad, dramatic or joyful. This local artist makes you eager to learn Portuguese and enter a whole new musical world.
Again, it’s all of Portugal’s sensitivity anchored in our time and modernised. Between chanson full of saudade and a large, popular voice that – most notably – produced one of the most successful albums in the history of the Portuguese music industry, João Pedro Pais represents Portugal in all its splendour, emotional and lyrical, sweet and engaging at once.
Some hits, but more than that – Pais’ music paints a portrait of Portugal, his home country which propelled him to stardom thanks to the television show Chuva de Estrelas. Accompanied by piano as the sole instrument, there are no unnecessary embellishments, just the Portuguese language and the accents and intonations it brings to a strong music.
Amalia Hoje is a Portuguese artist who decided to expand her repertoire to reflect the most typical music of Portugal. In fact, she decided to create a new album that was a compilation inspired by icons such as Amalia Rodrigues. To be influenced by Amalia Rodrigues’ musical style is one thing, but Hoje took it further: this vocalist took well-known songs such as Gaivota and modernised them, to reflect the tastes of a pop audience.
As a way to popularise Portuguese history and the Portuguese language, referencing well-known figures people know and love and which stayed in people’s minds. When history merges with the present, a beautiful composition ensues – such as this song, an example typical of vocal superstar Amalia Rodrigues.
Madredeus is a group that takes its name from a neighbourhood in Lisbon east of the Alfama. First performed in 1997, the vocals of this song are sung by a woman who takes us far, far away…
Madredeus is known throughout the Portuguese-speaking world for their beautiful Portuguese songs. Photo credit: Olaer / Elmer Anthony on Visual hunt
A mixture of fado, folk music and popular music, Haja O Que Houver is a perfect accord between vocals, guitar and various string instruments including guitar, cello, and accordion. Language in the service of emotion – that’s what this song is about.
Portugal is not lacking in beautiful songs to showcase its fascinating language and show exactly what it can do. It can be old-fashioned or modern, soft or strong, lyrical or powerful.
Look for these songs in your usual streaming sites or download them from iTunes or Amazon. Or look at videos of concerts on YouTube, try out online Portuguese radio stations, or even go old-fashioned and by a CD.
Discover the rich diversity of Portuguese culture and music, beyond what you might imagine. No flamenco or gypsy music, just the intangible strains of a beautiful canto or the haunted melodies of fado. And if you ever make it to Portugal itself, why not attend a music festival to discover small orchestral pieces or unusual and diverse vocals, and all of the best music Portugal has to offer.