© CMS, female choral group "As Ceifeiras de Pias"
HERITAGE OF HUMANITY
The Cante Alentejano is now Heritage of Humanity and is alive and well in the municipality of Serpa, with 14 choirs.
To listen to the Cante is a unique and intense experience that one does not forget. Those who come to Serpa can experience it by taking part in one of the weekly rehearsals of the different choirs or in one of the municipality’s events, where the Cante always has a prominent place.
A polyphony that does not require any instruments, the songs evolve in a slow - and nearly always melancholic - tempo
the expression of a People that sings its history, its ways of life and traditions.
Until a few decades ago, the Cante was synonymous with socializing, especially for men, in taverns, associations or cafes, places where it was sung, spontaneously, around a conversation or a snack. At home it was mostly sung by women, but, out in the fields, all raised their voices, joining forces to overcome the fatigue of the toil. The tradition was passed among the peasants and miners, from parents to children, and is currently alive and kicking.
© João Monge Ferreira, Tavern of the Coral and Ethnographic Group "Os Camponeses de Pias"
Its classification as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, attributed by UNESCO on the 27th of November 2014 in Paris, rejuvenated and gave strength and motivation to Cante’s champions and reaffirmed it as one of the main vectors of the region's identity.
ITS ORIGINS AND PARTICULARITIES
There is no consensus on its origins. Some relate it to Sephardic Arabian chants, taken to Morocco by the Jews driven from the Iberian Peninsula in the 16th century, while others associate it to a type of Byzantine chant, born of the Orthodox liturgies. For others yet, the connection to religious chants is more recent, and closer, as the Cante may have first appeared in the cloister schools of the Évora Cathedral.
Like any cultural expression that is alive and well, the Cante has updated itself over the years, with the introduction of faster variants and even instruments, like the accordion and the viola campaniça.
The repertoire has also been affected by multiple influences. If we think about the history of each choir and each singer and consider the functions of the Cante over the years we can better understand its immense cultural richness. That is the work of recording and cataloguing that Casa do Cante, a project based in Serpa, is implementing in order to protect the Cante Alentejano and the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the South.
Casa do Cante (the House of Cante), in Serpa, was the entity responsible for managing the candidacy (click to visit the Casa do Cante website)
© CMS, UNESCO certification of the Cante Alentejano
(click on the photo to check the credits)
IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF SERPA
THOSE WHO COME TO ENJOY THE CANTE
The Cante has a musical structure that is easy to recognize and follow, and anyone who arrives at Serpa can verify it by attending a choir rehearsal. Whether male or female, the voices will give you goosebumps.
You will hear two solo voices (the ponto and the alto) that alternate with a chorus. The stanzas are repeated in a cycle as many times as the singers desire.
Visit Casa do Cante, lookup information on upcoming open rehearsals and prepare yourself for an intense and authentic experience.