Robert Simon, Kennesaw State University – Fado

On Kennesaw State University Week:  Messages of protest can be hidden in seemingly innocuous places.

Robert Simon, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, examines one such instance from another culture.

Robert Simon, Ph.D., is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Kennesaw State University. His publications include: From Post-Mortem to Post-Mystic: Blanca Andreu, Galicia, and the New Iberian Mysticism (2019); To A Nação, with Love: The Politics of Language through Angolan Poetry (2017); The Modern, the Postmodern, and the Fact of Transition: The Paradigm Shift through Peninsular Literatures (2011); and Understanding the Portuguese Poet Joaquim Pessoa, 1942-2007: A Study in Iberian Cultural Hybridity (2008), along with journal articles and book chapters discussing transnational mystical tendencies between Angola, Portugal and Spain. He has also published several collections of poetry.



My research, in general terms, focuses on the links between music, poetry, and sociocultural movements in the Iberian Peninsula (encompassing Portugal, Spain, Andorra and Gibraltar), as well as Portuguese-speaking Africa. Specifically, the poetries and societies of the Iberian Peninsula can focus on using expressions of mysticism and otherness to build identity and resist established sociocultural norms.

My cultural research has included studies on the hidden meaning and symbolism of resistance in a style of Portuguese music known as “Fado.” A wonderful example is the well-known Fado tune titled “Belos Tempos,” or “Beautiful Times.” On the surface, the song appears to wax nostalgic about the days when the singer first heard Fado. The prevalent metaphor, that of entering into the service of Fado as equivalent to a nostalgia over entering into military service, lends itself to interpretation as a form of criticism regarding the way in which the Portuguese dictatorship utilized Fado as a tool of propaganda for a state at war with its oversees colonies. The emphasis musically on terms such as “saudade,” “recruta,” and “fileiras” reinforces these moments of indirect yet resounding critique.

So, by taking advantage of my background in singing Fado music (and this song in particular), I was able to extrapolate details and learn not only from the lyrics, but also from the tone and feeling of how the piece is performed. This multiple perspective approach reveals one of the ways in which Fado was used as a national, mythical discourse against a dictator and his colonial wars.