Desgarrada - lyrical dueling rap of northern Portugal

Augusto Canário & Naty Vieira "As Cuecas da Naty e do Canário"

1. Augusto Canário & Naty Vieira "As Cuecas da Naty e do Canário" (Naty and Canário's underwear)

Hypnotic weird folk music from the farming areas in the far North of Portugal. Two voices - often male and female, improvise insults, boasts and observational comedy. They are accompanied by accordions - one, two or sometimes a massed accordion band, as here.

The same tune repeats endlessly, and provides a background to the words, which follow a tight poetic structure. Very funny if you are Portuguese, but hard to translate as it is full of double entendres (duplos sentidos in Portuguese), slang and shared cultural references.

Note the 3.7 million views. This style is popular in Portugal, and is performed especially at country fairs and festivals. The Minho river valley is the heartland of Desgarrada today, but it is found throughout the North and in Madeira.

It is also performed around the world in ex-patriate, emigrant Portuguese associations and clubs, perhaps as a reminder of home. The accordion backing means it doesn't depend on amplification, so it can be performed indoors or outside.

Mike da Gaita and Naty Vieira "Desgarrada com Naty"

2. Mike da Gaita and Naty Vieira "Desgarrada com Naty" (Song duel with Naty)

Live Desgarrada can go on for a considerable time, as the singers vie with each other and think of new things to say. The recorded version is usually truncated in comparision.

The metrical structure of Desgarrada helps the singers improvise. Each singer sticks throughout to their own pattern, which can be the same or different to the other singer's. Here Mike and Naty are using the same pattern, but Naty and Augusto Canário used different ones in the first example.

Naty (full name Natividade Vieira) just sings, specialising in Desgarrada. This can be more challenging. When singers are playing an instrument as well they can use it to emphasise their words, or fill in gaps while they are thinking.

Jorge Ferreira and Tiago Maroto "Desgarrada da Pontaria"

3. Jorge Ferreira and Tiago Maroto "Desgarrada da Pontaria" (Desgarrada hitting the target)

Jorge Ferreira is also primarily a singer, a veteran singer, and a top-selling one, born in the Azores (Açores) and based in the USA. He sometimes sings Desgarrada, producing a landmark album in 2014 of collaborations with more specialised Desgarrada artists.

This album Jorge Ferreira Canta Com Os Amigos Desgarradas Ineditas (Jorge Ferreira sings uncut Desgarradas with friends) has high production values, and has some great accordion playing on it.

Recorded versions of Desgarrada tend to be shorter and more rigid in structure than the much more improvised live performances. But in compensation you can get a more polished instrumental accompaniment.

Jorge Ferreira, Cláudia Martins "Desgarrada Telefonema"

4. Jorge Ferreira, Cláudia Martins "Desgarrada Telefonema" (Desgarrada about telephone calls)

From the album Desgarradas Velhas e Pezinhos, Volume 4

Cláudia Martins is an accomplished accordion player, with her own group, Minhotos Marotos (Minho Marauders). As well as Desgarrada, their repertoire includes a lot of comedy numbers, and overlaps considerably with Pimba - as does Mike da Gaita.

Ferreira is comfortable in this company as his normal style is also highly populist, though composed rather than improvised like Desgarrada often is. Ferreira's work is too smooth to be considered Pimba. Perhaps it's the Portuguese equivalent of the Schlager music popular in other European cultures.

Jorge Ferreira and Mike da Gaita "Desgarrada a Nossa Maneira"

5. Jorge Ferreira and Mike da Gaita "Desgarrada a Nossa Maneira" (Desgarrada our way)

When musicians from outside the tradition - even highly accomplished ones, attempt Desgarrada the results can come across as rather stilted and underwhelming. Sometimes it works, like here, but mostly it doesn't.

Desgarrada is at root an improvised music, and more than that, a form of free expression and quick-witted, often biting, comment. This may be why it usually doesn't work well on live TV - the television hosts tend to come across as anxious they might become targets, or over matey and patronising.

Desgarrada goes back a very long way. Similar forms of improvised competitive singing have been found lingering on in remote areas colonised by the Portuguese.

More Desgarrada

YouTube has more of this music, but items are often blocked - this depends on your region. This seems to be a licencing issue, rather than YouTube's robots being offended by the words.

The French-based streaming service Deezer seems to have more Desgarrada at the moment. Here's a Deezer playlist of six tracks, detailed below. It lasts 49 minutes if you have a Deezer account - you can skip tracks with the right arrow.

Without an account you get a random 30 second clip from each track, so at three minutes it's better than nothing and will give you more of a flavour of the music. Deezer has a Freemium offer they are keen to sign you up for, which they think can be achieved by constant nagging. Closing the pop-ups resumes the audio.

  1. Title: Desgarrada Com Naty
    Duration: 08:00
    Singers: Mike da Gaita, Naty Vieira
    From album: O Rey da Alegria

  2. Title: Desgarrada
    Singers: Jorge Loureiro, Naty
    From album: Vamos Animar Portugal
    Duration: 06:42

  3. Title: Desgarrada Telefonema
    Singers: Jorge Ferreira, Cláudia Martins
    From album: Desgarradas Velhas e Pezinhos, Vol. 4
    Duration: 10:10

  4. Title: O Martelo de Calceteiro (Desgarrada)
    Singers: Jorge Loureiro, Naty
    From album: No Kubota Devagarinho
    Duration: 05:18

  5. Title: A Vela do Canário
    Singers: Naty, Augusto Canário
    From album: Cantigas Ao Desafio e Desgarradas
    Duration: 04:34

  6. Title: As Cuecas da Naty e do Canário (Desgarrada)
    Singers: Augusto Canário & Amigos, Naty
    From album: Cantigas, Cantorias e Outras Folias
    Duration: 14:30

direct link to this playlist on Deezer in case it doesn't load


This article is still a stub. It need to be improved with more examples of the live form, and a less irritating way of incorporating Deezer, if one exists.

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