Saturday, December 27, 2008


Saudade is a Galician and Portuguese word for a feeling of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost. It often carries a fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might really never return.

Saudade differs from nostalgia in that whereas nostalgia involves a mixed happy and sad feeling for the lost memories, saudade involves the hope that what is being longed for might return. Saudade has been described as a "vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist,... a turning towards the past or towards the future". A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing.

In music

As with all emotions, saudade has been an inspiration for many songs and compositions. "Sodade" ("saudade" in Cape Verdean Creole) is the title of the Cape Verde Morna singer Cesária Évora's most famous song; French singer Étienne Daho also produced a song of the same name. The Good Son, a 1990 album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, was heavily informed by Cave's mental state at the time, which he has described as saudade. He told journalist Chris Bohn that "when I explained to someone that what I wanted to write about was the memory of things that I thought were lost for me, I was told that the Portuguese word for this feeling was "saudade". It's not nostalgia but something sadder." Portuguese American singer/songwriter Jorge Ferreira recorded in 1992 the song "Saudade" from his album Regresso Prometido. A large number of songs of this emigrated artist speaks in majority about the feeling of saudade.

The usage of saudade as a theme in Portuguese music goes back to the 16th century, the golden age of Portugal. Saudade, as well as love suffering, is a common theme in many villancicos and cantigas composed by Portuguese authors; for example: "Lágrimas de Saudade" (tears of saudade), which is an anonymous work from the Cancioneiro de Paris. Fado is a Portuguese music style, generally sung by a single person (the fadista) along with a Portuguese guitar. The most popular themes of fado are saudade, nostalgia, jealousy, and short stories of the typical city quarters. Fado, and Saudade are two key and intertwined ideas in Portuguese culture. The word fado comes from Latin fatum meaning "fate" or "destiny". Fado is a musical cultural expression and recognition of this unassailable determinism which compels the resigned yearning of saudade, a bittersweet, existential yearning and hopefulness towards something over which one has no control.

The Paragyuan guitarist Agustin Barrios wrote several pieces invoking the feeling of saudade including Choro de Saudade and Preludio Saudade. The term is prominent in Brazilian popular music, including the first bossa nova song, "Chega de Saudade" (No more saudade), written by Tom Jobim. Due to the difficulties of translating the word saudade, the song is often translated to English as No more Blues. In 1919, on returning from two years in Brazil, the French composer Darius Milhaud composed a suite, Saudades Do Brasil, which exemplified the concept of saudade. Saudade (part ii) is also the title of a second flute solo by the band Shpongle, the first one being flute fruit. The singer Amália Rodrigues typified themes of saudade in some of her songs. J-Rock band Porno Graffitti has a song titled "サウダージ”, "Saudaaji" transliterated ("Saudade"). The alternative rock band Love And Rockets has a wistful song 'Saudade' that evokes it quite well with its sound (and it is also appropriately the last track) on their album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven.

The contemporary Irish folk-rock band The Pogues, have recorded ballads that describe the feeling of saudade shared by many Irish that migrated to America, a good example being "Thousands are Sailing" from the album If I Should Fall from Grace with God

A jazz fusion trio consisting of John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, and Larry Goldings released an album dedicated to drummer Tony Williams, called "Saudades." Dance music artist Peter Corvaia released a progressive house track entitled "Saudade" on HeadRush Music, a sub-label of Toes in the Sand Recordings. New York City post-rock band Mice Parade released an album entitled Obrigado Saudade in 2004. Chris Rea also recorded a song entitled Saudade as a tribute to Ayrton Senna the Brazilian three-times Formula One world champion killed on the track.There is an ambient/noise/shoegazing band from Portland, OR named Saudade. The rock band Extreme has a Portuguese guitarist Nuno Bettencourt; the influence of his heritage can be seen in the band's album titled Saudades de Rock. During recording, the mission statement was to bring back musicality to the medium. "Nancy Spain", a song by Barney Rush, made famous by an adaptation by Christy Moore is another example of the use of saudade in contemporary Irish music, the chorus of which is:

"No matter where I wander I'm still haunted by your name
The portrait of your beauty stays the same
Standing by the ocean wondering where you've gone
If you'll return again
Where is the ring I gave to Nancy Spain?"

More at Wikipedia


Hanne said...

Saudade... I know that feeling I think.
p.s. I left this blog post with a feeling of enlightenment.

Rosequirk2789 said...

Wow.. Saudade. I feel like it's such a beautiful word...despite it's somewhat depressing meaning.

I'm with Hanne. I feel a little bit more enlightened having read that. Definitely.

Kiwi said...

Such a beautiful word for such an intense feeling