portuguese-music

Fado to R&B: An Eclectic Portuguese Music Playlist for Every Language Learner

What’s the longest you’ve ever had a song stuck in your head?

Might’ve been days… even weeks.

Some people are probably still out there humming “Despacito.”

There’s nothing like the way a super catchy song can take hold of you.

You might already know how useful that quality can be for language learners. Music can help you remember Portuguese words and phrases without even trying. It’ll get you singing along with the right pronunciation and internalizing grammar structures, even if you don’t realize it while you’re dancing around your kitchen.

Looking for some Portuguese tunes to boost your language skills with?

We’ve got your playlist. Get ready to start learning Portuguese through music like folk, pop-rock, R&B and more.
 


 
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How Portuguese Learners Should Listen to This Music

European Portuguese music, be it traditional or contemporary, comes in all kinds of flavors. You’ll benefit from knowing a little about songs across different eras—mostly because it’ll give you a well-rounded perspective on how different genres and sounds were both a product of, and an influence in, the local culture at large.

The best advice we can give for learning with music is to read the lyrics closely while you’re listening. Make sure to note and look up words you don’t recognize. Pay attention to how the singer pronounces them and how they fit into the song’s rhyme scheme, if there is one.

Better yet, try to figure out the words from the context of the song before you look them up to see whether you were right.

If that all sounds like a lot of work, FluentU will soon make the whole process a lot easier. FluentU is currently developing a program based on real-world Portuguese videos, including music videos, as well as movie trailers, YouTube clips, inspiring talks and more. You’ll be able to choose any song or video that interests you, each with clickable captions providing instant definitions and native pronunciations for every word.

The videos will also come with full transcripts, flashcards and exercises to help you remember the new words once you’re done watching, singing and grooving.

FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends more videos based on what you’ve already learned. You’ll have a truly personalized experience that keeps pushing you forward.

Check out the free trial and get a taste of what the Portuguese program will be like. There’s also Spanish, Italian, French and more valuable language programs to choose from while you’re waiting for Portuguese to be ready.

And, of course, don’t be afraid to belt the lyrics out—part of the fun of learning European Portuguese with music is singing along to the tunes you’ve been adding to your playlist.

The Ultimate Tour of European Portuguese Music for Language Learners

1. Fado

When you’re learning a new language, you’re also adopting its culture. So knowing about Portugal’s most traditional genres, like fado, is definitely going to enrich your musical experience.

There are two styles of fado, hailing from Lisbon and Coimbra, and the genre’s origins can traced as far back as the 1820s. Its heritage value is globally recognized by UNESCO and the genre itself has enjoyed a resurgence in recent times.

This type of song is largely characterized by melancholic sounds and lyrics, often capturing the hardships experienced by the poor and ill-fated (the word fado is believed to come from the Latin fatum, which means destiny or fate). Symbolism tied to life at sea is another constant in Fado music.

Here are two songs to introduce you to fado:

“Fado Português” (“Portuguese Fado”) by Amália Rodrigues

A song that poetically talks about the origins of fado itself. For European Portuguese learners, this tune will expose you to vocabulary and adjectives related to nature and the sea, and how these can be strung together to paint a picture of one’s sorrowful surroundings.

The vocabulary is accessible enough for beginners, but its nuances might be a better fit for intermediate to advanced learners. Find the lyrics with an English translation here.

“Lisboa Menina e Moça” (“Lisbon Girl and Young Woman”) by Carlos do Carmo

A musical ode to the home of fado, Lisbon, which is lovingly described as a young girl who has developed into a beautiful woman.

This song is ideal for intermediate to advanced learners as it’ll offer some insight into the composition of metaphors. Original lyrics with the translation can be found here.

2. Folk Music

Like fado, folk music is a genre that’s stood the test of time, weaving itself into the country’s customs and social contexts.

The thing to note about Portuguese folk music is that each region has its own traditional sound. The southern Alentejo region, for instance, is renowned for its Cante Alentejano—a polyphonic singing style that, like fado, holds UNESCO heritage status. Another interesting example is the Trás-os-Montes province, which has its own traditional bagpipe, known as the gaita transmontana.

There are lots of regional gems to be discovered, and we highly encourage you to take some time to research the local traditions yourself. In the meantime, here are some folk tunes to get you inspired.

“Alentejo És Nossa Terra” (“Alentejo You’re Our Land”) by Vitorino

Portuguese singer-songwriter Vitorino is famous for combining the traditional music of Alentejo with a distinctive contemporary sound. This song is a celebration of the region at large and the fact that it only has a few words means it’s quite accessible to all Portuguese learners.

While no translation is available, you can find the original lyrics here.

“Caminhos Turvos” (“Blurred Paths”) by Dazkarieh

Dazkarieh was a band, formed in 1999, that became renowned for its experimental combination of rock and neo-folk—basically embracing a mix of old and new. This song in particular was their parting single and talks about finding one’s pathway and embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

There’s lots of descriptive imagery in its words, though the vocabulary is simple enough for an upper beginner to intermediate learner to understand. The lyrics (again, without translation) can be found here.

3. Música de Intervenção (Protest Songs)

Música de Intervenção was a product of the Portuguese dictatorship years, becoming more popularized towards the end of the Estado Novo regime that took hold of the country from 1933 until 1974.

Not only does this type of music provide a window into 20th century Portuguese society, but its influence is also still felt across popular genres today. Iconic Portuguese protest songs of the past include:

“Os Vampiros” (“The Vampires”) by José Afonso

A song that talks about the “vampires” (i.e. the political oppressors) that lurk in the darkness. As you can probably tell, there’s a lot of symbolism in it—as such, the language is quite sophisticated.

This is perhaps a better song to dissect if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level because of the different nuances it carries. See the lyrics and their translation here.

“Que Força É Essa” (“What Strength Is That”) by Sérgio Godinho

Sérgio Godinho is widely considered one of the greatest Portuguese singers and songwriters of all time. This song was released in the 1970s and talks about the daily struggles of the masses as they try to survive and find their força (inner strength) under a repressive regime.

The language is quite straightforward, though the verbs and grammatical conventions used in this song might be more familiar to intermediate or advanced learners. Find the Portuguese lyrics here.

4. Mainstream Hits

These days, popular Portuguese music is an intersection of various genres and styles. In fact, we could probably dedicate an entire blog post just for this type of music.

Here’s a small peek at some of the mainstream tunes our Lusophone friends have been listening to in recent years.

“A Paz Não Te Cai Bem” (“Peace Doesn’t Suit You”) by Clã

Clã is a Portuguese pop-rock band that was established in the mid-1990s and has scored most of its success from the 2000s onwards. This song, released in 2014, is all about the disappointment, conflict and misunderstandings you’d typically find in a rocky relationship.

Even though this tune delves into a complicated topic, its message is conveyed in a no-frills manner that makes the language quite easy for an upper beginner or intermediate learner to grasp. Find the Portuguese lyrics here.

“Brasa” (“Embers”) by Mundo Segundo and Sam the Kid

Hip-hop is a genre that experienced a rapid surge in popularity in 21st century-Portugal. With this revolution came a number of Portuguese rappers who adapted the genre to suit the local context.

Sam the Kid and Mundo Segundo are among the most famous, and joined forces to record and produce an album that was released in 2017. The debut single, “Brasa,” talks about the hot fire and brasa (embers) that make up Portuguese rap music.

This one is composed of some slang words and lots of complicated symbolism. As such, it’s best suited for more advanced learners. Read the original lyrics here.

“Dança Este Som” (“Dance [to] This Beat”) by TT

R&B singer Tiago Teixeira (better known simply as TT) made his debut in 2007 with this single. It’s a dance tune (hence its title) that incorporates some familiar English words into it as the singer tries to convince a girl to dance with him.

Colloquialism is another constant in this tune. Combined with the aforementioned English terms, it can get quite confusing to follow if you’ve only recently stared learning European Portuguese. Find the lyrics here.

 

How’s that for a varied playlist? We hope you’ve found at least a couple of songs that resonate with your musical and linguistic interests. Have fun singing along to these and whatever other tunes you stumble across during your Portuguese learning journey.

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