Origin, history | Origen, historia | Origem, história
There are different theories about the origin of the cante alentejano, among them it is possible to highlight the three most common approaches:
i. the one that defends that the birth of the cante is in the Gregorian practice of chorus;
ii. the one that views the cante as a cultural legacy of the Arab presence in Portugal, defending the similarities that can be found between the cante from the Arabs and the cante alentejano and
iii. the one that defends the cante alentejano as a way of polyphony centered in deep values of the soul of the people, that is, originally Portuguese and from the Alentejo.
Veiga de Oliveira (1966) referring to the works of Lopes Graça (1953) and António Marvão (1955, 1956, 1963b) synthesizes what these authors wrote about the origin of the
cante alentejano. The author mentions that Lopes Graça distinguishes two perspectives – on the one hand he talks about “ancient sedimentation”, difficult to determine and that
must have had its origins in different moments (putting forward the hypothesis that some specimens of cante alentejano have had their origin in “Medieval times”); on the other
hand he enunciates the “modern influence”, recent, not further than the 18th century, “songs from major-minor tone, symmetric in terms of rhythm, elementary in terms of
morphology” (Lopes Graça,1953,p.43, quoted by Veiga de Oliveira, 1966, p.339).
António Marvão also identifies two distinct lines, he subdivides the cante alentejano into modas and “songs from the Alentejo” addressing the first ones to the classic archaic polyphony from the 15th and 16th centuries (with clear Gregorian influences) and the second ones, more recent, framed in the moulds of musical folk music from the Alentejo. António Marvão explains the appearance of the “songs” due to the influence and spread of modern music, fado and popular song in mid 30s of the 20th century (Oliveira, 1966).
As far as the singing from Low Alentejo is concerned, Nazaré (1979) refers that the tonal organization established a relationship with the previously existent modal structure.
The modal system was used throughout all the Middle Age (it is the modal Greek system adapted by Saint Gregorian in the shaping of the Gregorian chant). The tonal system points to the era of the Renaissance. The metamorphosis of these two systems makes the pure and unique classification of the structure and origin of the cante alentejano ambiguous.
(Nazaré,1979; Rita, 2010).
In the present site of the Brotherhood of the cante alentejano there is still another hypothesis , that the cante alentejano has had “ its origin in Serpa [a village from the
Alentejo], in the end of the 15th century, in the transition from the Vocal Millennium to the Renaissance: a group of friars dislocated from St Paul’s Convent, in Serra de Ossa [situated in High Alentejo], to Serpa, will have been in its origin”.