Saudade is different from nostalgia; in nostalgia (a word that also exists in Portuguese), one has a mixed happy and sad feeling, a memory of happiness but a sadness for its impossible return and sole existence in the past. Saudade is like nostalgia but with the hope that what is being longed for might return, even if that return is unlikely or so distant in the future to be almost of no consequence to the present. One might make a strong analogy with nostalgia as a feeling one has for a loved one who has died and saudade as a feeling one has for a loved one who has disappeared or is simply currently absent. Nostalgia is located in the past and is somewhat conformist while saudade is very present, anguishing, anxious and extends into the future.
For instance, the phrases "Tenho saudades de você" (literally, "I have 'saudade' for you") and "Eu sinto sua falta" ("I feel your absence") would each be translated into English as "I miss you" — both "falta" and "saudade" are translated as "missing." However, these two statements carry very different sentiments in Portuguese. The first sentence is never told to anyone in person, but the second can be. For example, The first would be said to someone who has been away for sometime, it would be said over the phone or written in a letter. The second would be said by someone who has divorced, or whose partner is not usually at home, and would be said personally.
Some say that the ultimate form of saudade is one felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown in regards to any of the following things or circumstances:
Although it relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of things/people/days gone by, it can be a rush of sadness coupled with a paradoxical joy derived from acceptance of fate and the hope of recovering or substituting what is lost by something that will either fill in the void or provide consolation.
One of the best descriptions of the word saudade was made by Chico Buarque de Hollanda in his song "Pedaço de mim," when he says. "saudade é arrumar o quarto do filho que já morreu." which roughly translates to "saudade is to tidy the bedroom of a son who has already died."
The same feeling is also found in Brazil, the destination of immigrants and African slaves who never saw their homelands again. The feeling was so much ingrained into the Brazilian mind that virtually every immigrant settled there learned this notion and incorporated it (even people from radically different mindsets, like Germans and Japanese, soon understood it). Another permanent source of saudades for the Brazilians is the vastness of the country itself, which in the past caused most people to feel alone almost everywhere.
In the latter half of the 20th century, saudade became associated with the feeling of longing for one's homeland, as hundreds of thousands of Portuguese-speaking people left in search of better futures in North America and Western Europe.
Besides the implications derived from an emigratory trend from the motherland, saudade is historically speaking the term meant to describe the decline of Portugal's role in world politics and power. During the so called 'Golden Age', synonymous with the Era of discoveries, Portugal had undeniably risen to the status of a world power, its monarchy one of the richest in Europe at the time.
Since then, with the rise of competition from other European nations, the country went both colonially and economically into a prolonged period of decay. This period of decline and resignation from the world's cultural stage marked the rise of saudade, aptly described by a sentence of its national anthem - 'Levantai hoje de novo o esplendor de Portugal' (Let us once again lift up the splendour of Portugal).
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.
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.
A jazz fusion trio consisting of John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, and Larry Goldings released an album dedicated to drumming legend 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.
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.
Nancy Spain, a song by Barney Rush, made famous by an adaptation by Christy Moore is a good 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?"
There is an ambient/noise/shoegazing band from Portland, OR named Saudade.
Morrinha was a term often used by emigrant Galicians (especially in the Americas) when talking about the Galician motherland they had left behind. Although saudade is also a Galician word, the meaning of longing for something that might return is generally associated with morriña. The word used by Galicians speaking Spanish has spread and became common in all Spain and even accepted by the Academia.
The word 'saudade' takes on a slightly different form in Portuguese-speaking Goan families for whom it implies the once-cherished but never-to-return days of glory of Goa as a prized possession of Portugal, a notion since then made redundant by the irrevocable cultural changes that occurred with the end of the Portuguese regime in these parts.
There is a religious context for kaiho in Finland as well; a sect of "herännäiset" or "körttiläiset" more familiarly, has central to their faith a kaiho towards Sion, a unity of faith, and a connection with God, permeating their central book, Siionin Virret ("Hymns of Sion").
However, saudade does not involve tediousness. Rather, the feeling of saudade accentuates itself: the more one thinks about the loved person or object, the more one feels saudade. The feeling can even be creative, as one strives to fill in what is missing with something else or to recover it altogether.
There is yet another word that, like 'saudade', has no immediate translation in English: λαχτάρα (lakhtara). This word encompasses sadness, longing and hope, as 'saudade' does.