You’ve probably heard of Fado. You might have even gone to see a Fado performance while you were in Portugal. Fado is an important traditional style of music in Portugal, and a part of Portugal’s cultural heritage. It’s so important that UNESCO have recognised Fado under the category of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Pimba, on the other hand, has yet to be recognised. You won’t find restaurants in Lisbon offering pimba dinner evenings, and there isn’t a museum dedicated to the history of Pimba in the same way as there is for Fado.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a big part of Portuguese culture. It is. Go to a summer festival in Portugal (especially in the countryside) or attend a wedding (again, especially in the countryside) and there’s a good chance you’ll hear some Pimba music.
What is Pimba?
Pimba is an upbeat style of music that’s sort of a mix of pop and folk. It tends to get played a lot at summer festivals, but mainly in rural parts of Portugal rather than in cities like Lisbon and Porto where many people are embarrassed by it.
Pimba doesn’t take itself too seriously. The key characteristics of Pimba are a fun beat that gets people dancing, simple (yet often humorous and often sexual) lyrics, and usually an accordion and cheap synthensiser as well.
The origins of Pimba as a genre are hard to pinpoint, but a lot of people point to Portuguese singer Emanuel’s 1995 single called Pimba Pimba. Emanuel certainly wasn’t the first person to sing a double entendre-filled country song (Quim Barreiros’ 1991 song Bacalhau à Portuguesa, for example, is definitely not subtle) but the genre really took off after this song – and got a name as well.
Since then Pimba has really become its own genre, within Portugal at least: few people outside of Portugal have heard of Pimba, and it’s never really officially been classified as a genre. Mention Pimba music in Portugal, however, and everyone will know what you’re talking about.
Although Pimba is distinctly Portuguese, Portugal isn’t the only country with this type of music. Irish singer Richie Kavanagh’s Aon Focal Eile could almost be Pimba apart from the fact that he’s not singing in Portuguese and the jokes are about swear words rather than sexual references.
Why you should listen to Pimba
Pimba is something that you’ll come across as rural Portuguese festivals, even festivals that have religious origins, and it’s nice to know what everyone is getting excited about. You also quickly realise what a good sense of humour people have when everyone is up dancing to it.
It’s also good to listen to if you’re studying Portuguese. The lyrics are simple, and easy to hear, and they’re often funny as well. A lot of the humour comes from slang and innuendo, so you might not get everything immediately but it’s a fun way to learn these things.
If you want to get to grips with this Portuguese genre of music, a few songs to listen to are: