Fado Resounding

Affective Politics and Urban Life

Fado Resounding

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 22 photographs (incl. 10 in color), 10 figures Published: October 2013

Author: Lila Ellen Gray

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, European Studies, Music > Ethnomusicology

Fado, Portugal's most celebrated genre of popular music, can be heard in Lisbon clubs, concert halls, tourist sites, and neighborhood bars. Fado sounds traverse the globe, on internationally marketed recordings, as the "soul" of Lisbon. A fadista might sing until her throat hurts, the voice hovering on the break of a sob; in moments of sung beauty listeners sometimes cry. Providing an ethnographic account of Lisbon's fado scene, Lila Ellen Gray draws on research conducted with amateur fado musicians, fadistas, communities of listeners, poets, fans, and cultural brokers during the first decade of the twenty-first century. She demonstrates the power of music to transform history and place into feeling in a rapidly modernizing nation on Europe's periphery, a country no longer a dictatorship or an imperial power. Gray emphasizes the power of the genre to absorb sounds, memories, histories, and styles and transform them into new narratives of meaning and "soul."


"Lila Ellen Gray’s Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life has the feel of a magnum opus. Ambitious in its breadth, it is clear from the get-go that this study is no small undertaking. Indeed, this is the first full-length ethnography of Portuguese fado published in English.... Lila Ellen Gray’s many years of good, old-fashioned fieldwork... has produced a highly nuanced, original contribution to knowledge around Portugal’s legendary 'national song.'" — Kimberly DaCosta Holton, Ellipsis

"Fado Resounding is a powerful ethnographic account in which Lila Ellen Gray argues compellingly that the musical genre of fado performs invaluable labors in locating, synthesizing and activating modes of experience, expression and interaction....[The book] weaves together incredibly vivid ethnographic accounts with incisive analyses that will be of great use to scholars working on vocality and gender, as well as constructions and articulations of locality, history and genre." — Joshua Brown, Ethnomusicology Review

“In Fado Resounding, Gray makes a compelling response. Her study of fado stands out in making the intangible tangible, finding resonance across time and place, and locating fado’s meaning as genre, as soul, as Lisbon.” — Danielle M. Kuntz, Notes

“This work provided a compelling account of the embodiment of place and history in amateur, semi-professional and professional fado practice, mixing detailed ethnographic study with theories of gender, place, embodied performance and affect…. The text will certainly be required reading for anyone wishing to understand this bittersweet genre and its complex relationship with its past, place, politics and people.” — Richard Elliott, Popular Music

“This is a beautifully written book, ethnographically rich and detailed, yet hard to classify: it is ethnomusicology, anthropology, linguistics, identity and gender politics. It is also poetry and music.” — Raquel Rodrigues Machaqueiro, Anthropological Quarterly

“This ethnography will appeal to readers from anthropology, music studies, and Portuguese studies, as well as those who simply seek an authoritative source on Lisbon’s amateur fado scene in the early twenty-first century. Gray opens up new pathways to understanding the affective power of genre in popular music and the complex relationship of fado to narratives of nation, place, and identity in Portugal." — Katherine Brucher, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Its value is enhanced by the inclusion of transcriptions of fado performances, and a comprehensive bibliography and index…. Fado Resounding will appeal to musicologists, ethnographers and Anglophone readers with a general interest in Portuguese culture.” — Carla Marie Jefferson, Contemporary European Studies

"Built on an ethnography of amateur fado practices in dialogue, sometimes tense and dissenting, with the communities to whom fado matters as an expressive practice and way of life, Fado Resounding deepens the empirical fields of fado study, traditionally focused on more visible terrains. Its theoretical framework makes it especially useful for scholars dealing with the voice, affect, cities and 'senses of place,' gender and the feminine, nation, celebrity, and politics of memory." — Rui Cidra, Book Notes: A Web Edition to the Yearbook for Traditional Music

"Gray’s brilliant and accessible monograph reads elegantly and proudly, much like fado itself." — Kathryn Metz, Journal of Anthropological Research

Fado Resounding is well written and accessible to the general reader yet it integrates eclectic, interdisciplinary theories, and includes an up-to-date bibliography and extensive research notes for the more informed reader. This book is a valuable contribution to the field of Portuguese culture and music studies in general, and to fado studies in particular…. This is the first scholarly book of its kind, and perhaps only the third work in the last century based primarily on empirical research amongst urban, amateur fado singers.”  — Michael Colvin, World of Music

"Fado Resounding provides an evocative and detailed ethnographic portrait of a contemporary musical genre as it exists within its socially and historically constructed context. It is a fascinating study, well grounded in gender and performance theory, that makes a valuable contribution to the field." — Loren Chuse, Ethnomusicology

"Fado Resounding is an impressive and engaging book, one which will expand understanding of fado beyond Portugal. Lila Ellen Gray takes up a wide range of topics, discussing fado in relation to emotion, historical mythologies, gender, and the idea of 'soulfulness,' as well as Lisbon, national identity, and world music. This is a stimulating contribution to the anthropology of expressive cultural forms." — João Leal, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

"Lila Ellen Gray positions Lisbon's amateur fado scene in terms of all the contestation about what fado is and where the action is taking place. This positioning is a unique and valuable contribution to music ethnography, and Gray does major and convincing intellectual work arguing for 'amateur' scenes as paths into the deepest musical and ethnographic understandings of genre, style, performance, poesis, and the ways that sociality is lived and experienced through sound." — Steven Feld, author of Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: A Memoir of Five Musical Years in Ghana


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lila Ellen Gray is Associate Professor of Music at Columbia University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1. Pedagogies of the Soulful in Sound 27

2. Affects of History 70

3. Fado's City 105

4. Styling Soulfulness 139

5. The Gender of Genre 158

6. Haunted by a Throat of Silver 179

Afterword: The Tangibility of Genre 227

Appendixes: Fado Vitória

Transcriptions 231

Notes 243

References 281

Index 295

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2015 Woody Guthrie Award for Outstanding Book on Popular Music (IASPM-US)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5471-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5459-8
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