Portugal has, in its cultural heritage, a very genuine musical expression, unique in the world, the "Cante Alentejano" (Alentejo Song), now recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Sung in choir and without any use of musical instruments, by groups of men and women, the "Cante Alentejano" is a popular manifestation which is a feature of several municipalities in the district of Beja, in the region historically known as Baixo Alentejo. However, it was the Municipality of Serpa which took the initiative to register it as World Heritage in conjunction with the Alentejo Regional Tourism Entity.
Although it is currently maintained by choral groups, some of them already centenarians, it always happened in informal contexts, while working in the field or during times of celebration. The lyrics speak of feelings and everyday moments.
Although it is not specific to any Genre or social status, it is often associated with the rural classes that formed in a region where agricultural industrialisation and mining extraction developed during the late 19th and 20th centuries. The first choral group arose in 1926, associated with the workers of the Mines of São Domingos, today deactivated. This initiative was followed by a second group in Serpa, in 1927.
When visiting the region, take a look at the cultural agenda to see if a show is scheduled, but be especially aware as it can happen spontaneously in any tavern or recreation association, during a moment of relaxation after a day’s work. In 2015, the creation of routes and Cante Houses is planned so that you can enjoy this unique expression.
A good way to get to know the "Cante Alentejano" is to watch the documentary “Alentejo, Alentejo”, by Sérgio Tréfaut. Produced also to support the application for World Heritage, it was the Best Portuguese Film at the Lisboa 2014 Indie Festival and the Best Film DOCSBarcelona+Medelín 2014.
Alentejo Alentejo (long trailer HD) EN version from Faux on Vimeo.
For more information about the "Cante Alentejano" check the website www.alentejoalentejo.com.