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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Fado of Coimbra, Portugal: A Sculptural Tribute

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

The evocative bronze symbolizes Coimbra’s paean to fado through a Portuguese guitar with the contours of a woman’s body. Lines from fado songs are inscribed in the hem of the piece. The artist is the renowned sculptor, Celestino Alves Andre (April 15, 1959 - ). He lives in the village of Portunhos in the municipality of Cantanhede, District of Coimbra.


Coimbra fado is closely linked to the University of Coimbra. Often, it tells of the saudade

on leaving the university.

“Saudade is the memory of enjoying past times that never come back; the penalty of not enjoying them in the present, and the desire and hope of returning to the former state of happiness in the future,” according to Saudade Portuguesa (1914).

The fado of Coimbra is sung by men. Both the singers and musicians wear the academic outfit: black robe, cape and leggings.


The statue was unveiled, next to the Arch of Almedina, on July 18, 2013, where it has remained for most of the time. It was a tribute from the municipality of Almedina to the City of Coimbra.


Coimbra fado is accompanied by the guitarra portuguese, different from the one in Lisbon, and viola (a type of guitar). The son and grandson of guitarists, Artur Paredes (1899-1980) revolutionized the tuning of the guitar and its accompaniment style to fado. His son, Carlos Paredes (1925-2004), expanded on the instrument’s evolution with its own sound coloring and construction, , according to Fado ao Centro, where informative concerts are performed each day.


Some of the most famous fados of Coimbra include Balada da Despedida (“Coimbra tem mais encanto, na hora da despedida”: “Coimbra has more charm at the time of farewell”); Fado Hilario, Saudades de Coimbra (“Do Choupal ate a Lapa, Foi Coimbra os meus amores: “From Choupal to Lapa, My loves went to Coimbra”), and Coimbra Menina e Moça (“Coimbra e de Portugal, Como a flor e de jardim”: "Coimbra is of Portugal, As a flower is of a garden”). Often, the first phrases are more recognizable than the song titles. Fernando Machado Soares (1930-2014) was an important fado singer, composer, jurist and judge.


In the 1960s, a new movement led the singers of Coimbra to incorporate ballad and folklore. The artists began interpreting lines of poets as a form of resistance to the 41-year dictatorship of the Estado Novo. Adriano Correia de Oliveira (1942-1982) and Jose Afonso (Zeca Afonso) (1929-1987) had a leading role in revolutionary music.

The Portuguese Armed Forces used Zeca Afonso’s rousing song, Grandola, Vila Morena, as a radio-broadcast signal during its military coup in the morning of April 25, 1974, which was the Carnation Revolution and the transition to democracy in Portugal.


The fado group, Rapsodia, performed the Serenata Monumental in 2010, marking the start of the Queima das Fitas (Burning of the Ribbons) at Largo de Se Velha. The ceremony for University of Coimbra graduates is one of great solemnity and emotion.


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