CANTE ALENTEJANO from Alentejo! (2021)

Cante Alentejano is to the Alentejo as fado is to Lisbon! Forget the guitars, the basses and the drums. The voice is the beginning and the end, the absolute instrument of cante. A reduction to the limit, to the bone.

CANTE ALENTEJANO

To sing it WELL you have to be from Alentejo, abuse the gerund, and have that soft accent. More common in the lower Alentejo than in the upper Alentejo, the cante alentejano can also only be truly felt by those who live or have lived in the Alentejo. By those who feel or have felt the dry, desolate plains in the texture of their skin.

It is possible to hear cante alentejano in large auditoriums, at festivals or in restaurants for tourists. They are replicas, dear reader, they are replicas. The cante in its pure state is (still) sung in taverns and taverns of the lower Alentejo. If you want to experience it you have to look for it patiently. You will find it most easily in Cuba, Mourão or Serpa. Enter a whitewashed tavern, ask for a jug of wine, bread and olives. Drink, eat, and talk. Give time to time. The alcohol will eventually have its effect, and the sore voices will come out as night falls.

ORIGINS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF CANTE ALENTEJANO

Cante is a popular Portuguese cultural expression from the Baixo Alentejo region (district of Beja). The deepest and oldest origins are uncertain but it is believed to have a connection with Arabic singing. There are many elements that distinguish Cante Alentejano from other musical styles. The costumes, the interlacing of arms, the slow swaying of bodies, and the lyrics themselves are different from the ordinary. But it is in the technique that the waters truly part. In cante alentejano, in each syllable a countless number of musical notes fit and in each word a song is made.

It can be defined as two solo voices (point and alto) alternating with a chorus. The verses are repeated according to the singers’ sensibilities. The rhythm of the music is slow and with pauses. The result is a monotonously beautiful melody, a dance between the voices and the pauses of the songs.

CANTE ALENTEJANO
CANTE ALENTEJANO

It is a musical style unique in the world. Its strength and melody evokes in us a thousand images of the Alentejo. Not the Alentejo of July and August and the beaches full of tourists. The other Alentejo, the Alentejo of my grandparents. The Alentejo of poverty but also of sharing, the Alentejo of hunger but also of solidarity.

The Alentejo continues to be a land of contrasts and a land that simultaneously pulls and repels its people. Time doesn’t seem to have its effect on the Alentejo. The old people continue to sit on the stone benches outside their houses. It was like this in 1950, in 1970, in 1990, and it is still like this in 2021. Isolation, drought, despair and poverty are still there. Its people are also there, with the will to leave, but also the will to stay. The Cante represents all of this.

ALENTEJO

But cante alentejano, like fado, can also be a joyful music, full of irony and humor. The social aspect of cante was and is also very strong and important. It is this social aspect that explains its survival through time. The cante unites people of different age groups and unites different generations of the same family.

How did you get to the Alentejo? No one can pinpoint it. Some say it has Arabic roots, others bet on a Jewish or Gregorian chant. Its origin is not the most relevant thing today. The most important thing is that it is here, it is ours, and it is here to stay and to make itself known to the world!

CANTE IS AN EXPRESSION OF THE ALENTEJO RURAL WORKERS

Although there are some choral groups of Cante with more than 100 years, this musical style was born in cafes, taverns and during the working days of Alentejo’s peasants. In a poor, dry and isolated Alentejo, the lyrics of the songs translate the suffering way of life of a population and their fight for survival. A sung expression of those who gave life to industrialization and mining in the Alentejo during the end of the 19th century and throughout the 1st half of the 20th century.

CANTE ALENTEJO
CANTE ALENTEJO

It was in 1926 that the first choral group of cante appeared in the Mines of São Domingos in Mértola (already inactive). The following year, in 1927, the second group of Alentejo cante appeared in Serpa.

WOMEN AND THE CANTE ALENTEJANO

Most people think that this style of music is exclusively male. Wrong! The cante was born in the agricultural fields, a place where men and women worked. Then it moved to the taverns and it was in this passage that women lost their protagonism in the cante alentejo.

WOMEN AND THE CANTE ALENTEJANO
WOMEN AND THE CANTE ALENTEJANO

WHERE CAN WE SEE CANTE ALENTEJANO?

As we have already mentioned, the cante Alentejano is a more frequent singing in Baixo Alentejo. Without prejudice to other locations, here follows a map with the places where cante maintains a greater presence!

If you visit the Alentejo and want to hear cante, check the local tourist office for upcoming concert dates. But don’t forget that Cante can arise spontaneously from a group of Alentejans in a café and that’s where you’ll find it in its purest state! You can also check the casa do cante website or the casa do cante de Serpa Facebook account.

CANTE ALENTEJANO UNESCO

In 2014, through the initiative of the Municipality of Serpa and Alentejo Tourism, Cante Alentejano gained a new importance after being recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. If you want to know more about Cante Alentejano, be sure to watch this short promotional film. It was made by Sérgio Tréfaut (film that supported the candidacy for World Heritage).

HYMN TO ALENTEJO, MUSIC AND LYRICS

We now give you the opportunity to hear our favorite version of the HINO AO ALENTEJO (you will find the lyrics below the video). We hope you enjoy it!

HINO AO ALENTEJO

Eu sou devedor à Terra
A Terra me ‘stá devendo
Eu sou devedor à Terra
A Terra me ‘stá devendo
A Te rra paga-m’em vida
Eu pago à Terra em morrendo

Alentejo, Alentejo
Terra sagrada do pão
Eu hei-de ir ao Alentejo
Mesmo que seja no Verão
Ver o doirado do trigo
Na imensa solidão
Alentejo Alentejo
Terra sagrada do pão

Daqui para a minha terra
Tudo é caminho e chão
Daqui para a minha terra
Tudo é caminho e chão
Tudo são cravos e rosas
Dispostas por minhas mãos

Alentejo, Alentejo
Terra sagrada do pão
Etc.

CANTE ALENTEJANO in CUBA do ALENTEJO

CANTE AND TRADITIONS FAIR IN CUBA

The fair of cante and traditions usually takes place at the end of May or beginning of June every year. Besides promoting Alentejo Singing, the fair also promotes regional products, Alentejo traditions and its territory. The fairground is the whole village of Cuba. There, you will find regional products, choral groups, street animation, taverns, conferences and concerts.

CANTE AND TRADITIONS FAIR IN CUBA
CANTE AND TRADITIONS FAIR IN CUBA

To find out when the next one will take place, keep an eye on the Cuban Town Hall website: https://www.cm-cuba.pt/https://www.cm-cuba.pt/

CANTE ALENTEJANO IN LISBON

If you live in Lisbon and want to see Cante Alentejano in Lisbon, then keep an eye on the schedule of Casa do Alentejo in Lisbon. Casa do Alentejo is an old palace located in the streets of Portas de Santo Antão. It is the place that best represents this region in the Portuguese capital. It exists since 1939 and is a kind of “Alentejo colony in Lisbon”. The space has a library, a tavern and a restaurant. It has an important role in stimulating culture and recreation for Alentejans in general and in particular for Alentejans in Lisbon. Throughout time it has maintained a close relationship with the Alentejo municipalities and with it organizes the most varied events that promote the region.

CANTE ALENTEJANO IN LISBON
CANTE ALENTEJANO IN LISBON

IF YOU LIKE THE ALENTEJO, YOU WILL ALSO ENJOY READING THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES…

PORTO COVO
PORTO COVO (click here)
VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES
VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES (click here)