António Costa
Lisbon Mayor

Our slogan now is “we have done a lot, we shall do a lot more”. In 2011 UNESCO makes a decision on our Application to include Fado in its Representative List of the Non-Material Cultural Heritage of Mankind. Therefore this is going to be a year of many actions, events and programmes, in Portugal and abroad. First and foremost we want this year to mobilise all our talent, energy and resources. To the work we have done, we shall add more work and entrepreneurship. Work done with passion, enthusiasm, ambition, belief and soul. As the fadistas say, Fado is not Fado without a soul.

When we at the Lisbon Town Council submitted this Application in 2010, after a time-consuming innovative work of research, study, organisation and dissemination, we always knew that we were dealing with one of the key symbols of our identity and one of the main vehicles of Portugal’s projection in the World.

From Severa to Amália, from Marceneiro to Carlos do Carmo and the younger generation fadistas, from the famous fado houses and the major show business events to the unknown retiros and small taverns, Fado has a vibrant history and is a permanently-evolving art. For this reason the attempts to make it rigid, to confine it, to reduce it to a single formula, an exclusive form of expression, have all failed. Doing this means making Fado fake, impoverished and false, i.e. diminishing what it great. Because Fado, although belonging to us all, always has a special meaning to just a few.

This is the stronger proof of its vitality, its trueness, its richness, its creativity, i.e. remaining loyal to its roots has always been its strength for updating. The bonds to its past and its tradition have always been a yearning for future and renewal. Fado, equal to and different from itself, re-invents and re-creates itself at each metamorphosis, surprising itself and surprising us.

As we submit this Application to UNESCO, we know that we are proposing them to acknowledge a great and fine artistic expression, so much alive and up-to-date in its past as in our 21st century, simultaneously belonging to Lisbon, to Portugal and to the World. Excelling intensity and matchless sensitivity are always present in this art form, along with great human emotions and feelings; love and jealousy, desire and renunciation, fulfilment and disappointment, error and repentance, joy and pain, conformity and rebelliousness.

In Fado and its many shades we men and women in their typical day-to-day attitudes and in their highest dreams. In Fado we recognise ourselves and we recognise each other. In Fado we have feelings and invite each other to share those feelings with us. Fernando Pessoa once said: “ There is a music of the People,/ I can’t say if it’s a Fado/ And hearing it I feel a new rhythm / In the depths of my being”.

Our Application to include Fado in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Non-Material Heritage of Mankind has become a shared project and a common purpose. As we mustered so much effort, commitment, good-will and enthusiasm, we showed that this is a collective cause, taken up with energy, determination and love. Geared by memory and modernity.

On behalf of the Lisbon Town Council, I thank all who mobilised their efforts to develop and support this Application, namely organs of sovereignty, institutions, community centres and associations, the Academy, intellectuals, writers, singers, musicians, publishers and entrepreneurs.

We believe in Fado’s originality and cultural relevance and are aware of its growing universal projection. We therefore hopefully await, with confidence and expectation, UNESCO’s decision. The approval we yearn for shall be a reason for us all to rejoice. But it shall be mainly a reason for us all to feel a tremendous responsibility.

Lisbon, the 25 January 2011.

António Costa

Jul 2024
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