There are many nations whose souls are wonderfully expressed in music. But rare are the cases where a single word defines not only the genre and the musical genius of the nation, but also its character and its history. Of course, the Americans have the blues, the Romanians the doina, the Austrians the waltz, the French les chansonettes, and the Italian the canzonetti, the Poles have the polka and the Hungarians the csardas. Each of these seems to represent one or more facets of the culture of the respective people, but none seems to embody a rich complex of feelings and experiences such as the Portuguese fado. The documentary 'As Vozes do Fado' made in 2017 by Ruben Alves and Christophe Fonseca does not intend to be a complete history of the genre. It is more of a love story or rather a love song of the Portuguese people for the fado, the musical genre that represents them.
The film begins with dozens of short sequences in which Portuguese of all ages, sexes, colors and social statuses describe in one or a few words what 'fado' means to them. Like the American 'blues' or the Romanian 'dor', the word has multiple and profound meanings, some non-translatable in other words and especially in other languages. Next, the filmmakers let the music and the people singing fado speak - from amateur musicians and singers from different neighborhoods of Lisbon and Porto to the most famous musicians of the genre of today. The vitality of this musical genre comes from its popular roots and from the fact that it is a living culture, sung and lived in the daily life of a large part of the Portuguese, before being promoted and sustained at the commercial and institutional level. Towards the end of the film, some of the possible directions of diversification and evolution in the future, in dialogue with other cultures and music schools, are mentioned.
The film does not intend to be the ultimate documentary about the history of the fado, its musical structure and sub-genres. Inevitably, the figure of the great artist who was Amalia Rodrigues is evoked, but those who want to know more details about this genre will have to consult other sources. It is a film that tells more about the people who sing and listen to fado, who live and create the fado today, about their love for this music and about the important place it occupies in their lives. It's a love song for the fado.
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