Tag: Alentejo

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A large, mainly agricultural region taking up much of the south of Portugal, literally "beyond the Tejo river". The Alentejo is dry and hot, but famous for its wild flowers and cork oak trees. The region has several distinctive musical styles including male choirs, female country singers, and accordion music. The Alentejo also has a strong left-wing music tradition. The countryside is characterised by very large land holdings, quite different to the small family farms in the north of Portugal.

Cante Alentejano - traditional male voice choirs of southern Portugal

Grupo Coral de Cantares de Portel "Verão"

1. Grupo Coral de Cantares de Portel "Verão" (Summer)

The words are about working in the hot sun.

This singing style is characteristic of the vast scorched Alentejo agricultural region south of Lisbon. It typically counterposes two lone male voices to a larger male choir singing in unison. Cante Alentejano is usually sung without instrumental accompaniment, or with minimal accompaniment: perhaps from the local version of the acoustic guitar, the viola Campaniça, or the accordion, that 19th century instrument that has made its way into folk music around the world because it is portable, relatively cheap and loud.

Cante Alentejano is at root a popular music performed mostly by amateurs. As with many folk styles, tunes tend to fairly simple, and repeat with variations. The emphasis is on the voices, and the interaction between them. But some innovation has crept in, professional and semi-professional groups have formed, and Cante Alentejano has also inspired singers and composers from outside the genre.

Perhaps the most famous song inspired by the style is Zeca Afonso's Grândola, vila morena. It's relationship to Cante is discussed in Grândola in context below.

In the songs listed here we start at the more traditional-sounding end of the spectrum, then move increasing into more modified and professional territory.

Os Vocalistas "Não te Faças Coradinha"

2. Os Vocalistas "Não te Faças Coradinha" (Don't play at blushing)

Rancho de Cantadores de Vila Nova de São Bento "O meu chapéu"

3. Rancho de Cantadores de Vila Nova de São Bento "O meu chapéu" (My hat)

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Zeca Afonso invites you to join him in a revolution

With the 46th anniversary of the Portuguese Revolution of the 25th of April 1974 upon us, now is a good time to reconsider the life and work of Zeca Afonso.

Zeca Afonso (full name José Manuel Cerqueira Afonso dos Santos) is one of the most influential singer / songwriters in 20th century history. He can be fairly compared to Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Mikis Theodorakis of Greece as a political musician of the left. But there is one great difference - the cause he was fighting for - the end of the Portuguese dictatorship and the end of the country's colonial wars, succeeded.

This may be why in Portugal they do not call such singers "protest singers". Instead they are called "singers of intervention" - cantores de intervenção. After all, the singing might just work.

In Zeca's case it certainly did. It is not just supposition that he had an influence on the course of events. The troops fighting Portugal's colonial wars were indeed listening to and playing his songs. Here's an example (it's also an example of Zeca singing in the Coimbra style).

José Zeca Afonso "Traz outro amigo também"

José Zeca Afonso "Traz outro amigo também" (Bring another friend too)

Words and music: José Afonso, 1970

A key feature of Zeca's songs is that their meaning is often not immediately obvious. Portuguese music was heavily censored at this time (as were foreign imports, many of which were just banned outright). Any obvious anti-war or anti-regime message would be stopped, and the perpetrators and those associated with them might well face unpleasant reprisals.

What it means:

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