Fado Portuguese - songs from the soul of Portugal.

Book/CD published by Wise publications.

It is available in both paperback and hardback. 143 pages. At Musicroom you can hear samples of the songs and order the paperback edition for 24.95£ and the hardback edition for 29.95£.


Revet kant

Fado Portuguese - songs from the soul of Portugal: Book/CD.

Compiled and edited by Donald Cohen

Fado PortugueseI really adore the Portuguese fado. I have a lot of CDs and I try to play fado on my guitar and mandola. Unfortunately I haven't a portuguese guitar - yet. I've been searching for fado songbooks with English translation included so I can understand a bit of what I am singing. Now I have found one. I want to share it with you.

The songbook Fado Portuguese - songs from the soul of Portugal is edited by Donald Cohen. The book contains 26 songs arranged for voice and guitar, that means each song has melody line and chords for guitar. There is an English translation to each song, and there is a CD included so you can listen to the Portuguese version and get an impression on how they pronounce the words.

The author

Donald Cohen is a retires attorney plus college history and music professor, guitarist and folklorist, and has spent his life studying and researching music from Europe and the Americas. He har over a period of many years been teaching guitar and folk music at a number of universities and high schools. He har extensively lectured on world music on radio, TV and in various educational institutions. He has a site called Fado.org which is about the fado and his book. He has now edited a book about tango too, Tango Voices, published by Wise publications.

Fado Portuguese

The book has a foreword that presents the fado tradition and what the Portuguese fado is for everyone who don't know so much about it. The fado tradition is a urban Portuguese folk tradition from early 19th century, probalby even older. The word fado is assosiated with destiny or fate. I have from Cohen's book learnt that there are different types of fado, older and newer types, sorts of fados from different districts and so on was thing I didn't know before I read this foreword.

The ultimate Fado heroine is Amalia Rodrigues. Everyone who speaks about fado, holds her as a true legend. Among the internationaly famous fado artists today, we find Ana Moura, Christina Branco and Misia. One of my favourites are the fadista Mané da Silva. She has a deep and soulful voice. She has one CD and she also sings on the anthologies Fado and fadistas and there she sings the wonderful fado Terra Lavrada. There is also an interesting band called Stockholm Lisboa project with Swedish and Portuguese musicians who mix Swedish traditional music with Portuguese fado. The band has a myspace-page too.

The very fact that the book contains a foreword and presentation of every song, makes it a nice introduction to the Portuguese songtradition fado. The book has a list of recommended fado places in Lisboa (by the time the book was written of course). After reading this you can visit a fado museum Cohen writes about if you are in Lisboa. The webpages have been renewed since the book was published and the name has too. Its name is now Museu do Fado.

The songs in Fado Portuguese

Donald Cohen has also written a presentation to every song where he writes about what kind of fado the song is, and about the artist who is performing. I don't know fado so well so I can't evaluate critically the songs that Cohen has chosen. In this collection Cohen has tried to present a varied and comprehensive sampling of different types of fados. When Cohen has chosen the fados, he has had great difficulties to choose among all the innumeral fados. He has made his collection on the basis of some criteria. The song's popularity has been important, the song's popularity among the singers, how frequently it was recorded. He has also been evaluating if the fado represents a particular type of fado and if there is a lyric in any song that is more interesting. Of course the beauty of the melody has also been important. And in the end, the selection was very subjective. If you question the selection, you will be right, Cohen writes.

The soulful way of playing fados and the sad way fado musicians make ornaments in their music, is very hard to play well enough to make people believe you. But playing the songs in a way that it works as a song among other nice songs is not that hard. The measures are most often 2/2 and the chords are shown above the chord names in the notation. The hardest chords to play are some barré-chords like Gm, F7 and F#sus. But most of the chords are not too hard to play. Most of the songs are played in the same key on the CD as they are notated in the book. Some of the songs are notated a semitone below or over if it is much more complicated chords in the original key. Her you can use a capo, or transpose the chords. If you have problem with the transposing, use a Transposing wheel or an online Auto-transposer to help you. I will recommend the first one. You will learn a lot about intervalls and chords by using a transposing wheel if you have trouble when you transpose from one key to another. Some of the songs are also played with a pitch a bit below 442 which is standard today. Here you have to tune down a bit, or simply listen to the song and play afterwards.

To conclude: This book contains a beautiful collection of portuguese fados. They are not very hard to play, and there is a CD included that helps you when you get in trouble reading the notations. I'll also give Donald Cohen credit for all the beautiful pictures he has chosen for the book. They really bring more of the fado soul into my mind.

More fado stuff

If you are searching for articles about fado on the web, here are some: one Wikipedia-page, Cohen himself has made a page where he is writing a bit about fado. One site is called Fado.com where you can find a lot of information about fado and the art of fado. And there is a page called Fado: the people's soul that har a lot of information. There is a page about fado from the World Music Central. Those of you who want to learn more about the portuguese guitar style, you can take a look at an article called Playing the Lisboan guitarra by Ronald Louis Fernández. If you want to get deeper into the fado tradition, Cohen recommends a book written by Paul Vernon, titled A history of the Portuguese fado. I will review it on our site soon.

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