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The Musical Lands of the Alentejo

From Fado to Fandango - Portugal has strong musical traditions.  And in the plains and small towns of the Alentejo music is part of the way of life. It is not just one type of music either-from local bands, to group singing and folklore — the hills of the Alentejo are alive with the sound of music.

In Alentejo there is a unique two-part song unlike any other: the Cante Alentejano. Once the song of the fields — the Cante is a group song of precision, with no instrumental accompaniment. At festivals and events, in local clubs and in taverns, Cante groups fill the air with stories of the Montados, of nostalgia, of love and a longing. The uniqueness of the song led it to being made Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Until recently, it was sung a cappella by men, but now women’s choruses are performing as well. Sung by a chorus the Cante Alentejano has been around for well over a century. The songs speak of emotions and of everyday life. You can check in at the local tourist office to see if any performances are planned, and the Cante may be found at local cafes or associations - Or check out the new Museu do Cante (Cante Museum) in Serpa.

The town band, or philharmonic, is a big part of many towns - from Estremoz to Evora to Beja to Ferreira do Alentejo to Aljustrel. The bands offer open air concerts in many towns, perform for parades, and play at local bullfights. So many towns pride themselves in their musical traditions, from Reguengos to Montemor - the town band is a big part of the social fabric. 

A new philharmonic museum is underway at Vimieiro – a town of music and musicians-with restoration of the former Palácio dos Condes de Vimieiro. The perfect place in a town that loves music and is full of philharmonic societies, which offer performances all year.

Fado is called Portugal’s national song, and is often wrongly associated only with Lisbon. But from Porto to Coimbra to the Alentejo - the fado has many homes. The Alentejo has its own genre of fado, a song of the working people, as well as song of the fields, workers and of horses and bulls. And, the fado of the worker from the early 20th century is a big part of the origin of the song. There is also a significant work of fado of the Alentejo immigrant, nostalgically missing their homeland. Today there are fado clubs in Evora and Fado in the street festivals in Estremoz.

As for folklore, or traditional music - it is a big part of the Alentejo - with dancing and song. Look for folklore festivals all over the province all summer long - with free performances, lots of fun and the whole community coming out to participate.

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