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Folk or Fake: The Notion of Authenticity in Portuguese Fado

Felix, James Patrick (2015) Folk or Fake: The Notion of Authenticity in Portuguese Fado. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis examines the notion of authenticity as it relates to folk music, particularly fado, a genre of urban folk music most commonly found in Lisbon, Portugal. It argues that authenticity, rather than being an inherent feature of the music, is ascribed by each individual on a case-by-case basis, and that the individual’s judgement of the value of a performance is dependent on this apparent authenticity. In particular, this thesis addresses the way tradition and “the traditional” are viewed, and the impact of commercialisation and modernisation as they relate to the notion and perception of authenticity. In order to better explore the ideas of tradition and authenticity, this thesis identifies a number of different factors that impinge on the perception of such characteristics, including the way in which fado has been commodified by the recording and tourist industries, the way in which fado performances came to be standardised in the twentieth century, and attitudes towards the evolution of the genre as a result of modernisation. Rather than simply focus on the musical features of fado performance and their fidelity to the “traditional", this thesis examines the value that authenticity and tradition are seen to have to both the performer and the listener. This is achieved through a critical analysis of existing scholarship concerning authenticity, coupled with the author’s observations of fado performances and interviews conducted with individuals involved with fado; these include professional musicians and singers, audience members, and those involved with the operation of fado houses in Lisbon. Other important features of fado are discussed, such as the role that it plays in the lives of its practitioners, its cathartic value, the identity that is constructed through involvement with fado, and the status accorded to the genre and its practitioners by both those involved with it and those outside of it. This thesis advocates two central ideas regarding authenticity in fado. The first is that there can be no absolute standard or measure of authenticity, but rather it is ascribed on a case-by-case basis and is a personal judgement that may differ from one individual to the next. Second, while authenticity is important, it does not render that which is deemed to be inauthentic as an object of lesser value but, rather, the two types serve different functions, and therefore cannot be judged in the same way. Subsidiary to this, the thesis argues that the terms “amateur” and “professional” are not to be taken as opposite points on the same scale, because they actually describe two different orders of things: “amateur” implies a personal state of mind and belief whereas “professional” simply indicates one who receives money for a performance. In this way this thesis contributes to the fields of ethnomusicology and popular musicology and builds upon previous scholarship in order to enable a greater understanding of the nature and role of tradition and authenticity in popular folk music.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Fado, Portugal, Authenticity, Music, Folk, Identity, Lisbon, Tradition, Traditional, Fadista, Guitarra, Saudade, Amalia, Mariza, Identity Formation, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, Popular Musicology, Fascism, Europe, Lisboa, Coimbra, Organology
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Music (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.660103
Depositing User: Mr James Felix
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2015 09:06
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2018 13:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9600

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