Cantar Mais – Mundos com voz (Singing More – Worlds with Voice) is a project of the Portuguese Association for Musical Education (APEM) offering free online access to a wide range of songs that fall into one of the following categories: Traditional Portuguese, early music, ‘Lusophony’ or songs from any of the Portuguese-speaking countries, ‘authored’ songs, world music, Fado, Cante from Alentejo and musical theatre/song cycles. All of these songs come with original arrangements and orchestrations supported by free online multimedia pedagogical resources and formal training tutorials.
These songs and the umpteen resources available on this digital platform that go with them are the result of a thoroughly systematic and potentially innovative work carried out by the Cantar Mais Team (‘Singing More’ Team), in order to boost and improve students’ artistic and musical practices and performances in schools (and their communities), and, hopefully, take them to new heights, through songs and qualified singing. Indeed, with this data-intensive website one truly yearns for children and youngsters to further develop their music culture and acquire new types of music learning, by experimenting a vast, ever-changing array of handy tools, and by experiencing new artistic and singing skills for performing, creating and enjoying music and other art forms a lot more. We also genuinely believe Cantar Mais (‘Singing More’) can serve as a useful tool and a fantastic songs collection for music and arts teachers, educators, singers, choir conductors, scholars and possibly other professionals to explore.
The whole set of songs that make up the Cantar Mais («Singing More») repertoire have been grouped according to eight fairly discrete categories, namely: traditional; ‘authored’ songs, world music, early music, Fado, Lusophony, “Cante”, and Music Theatre/ Song Cycles (more of these down below).
For each and every song an accompanying arrangement is provided, with which a large number of acclaimed music producers, composers and educators have slayed to bring to the fore and/or recreate the diversity of aesthetic views, styles, customs, and protean currents in contemporary music cultures all over the world.
The word “traditional” is mostly used in music to refer to a plethora of practices, activities, genres and styles associated with rural settings and life. However, as Salwa Castelo-Branco points out, “the concept of tradition is based on dynamic views of music and culture”, and in that sense, a ‘tradition’ is a model of the past that cannot be separated from Today’s critical interpretations and appropriation of it.
In this respect, this category of songs features a wonderful selection of several numbers from the Portuguese Book of Folksong (“Cancioneiro Popular Português”) covering many regions of both Continental Portugal and the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores, as well as a fabulous motley of themes.
‘Authored songs’ is a category that features quite a few songs in Portuguese, especially written for children and young people.
In these songs, poets with heightened sensitivity, different aesthetic views and from many different backgrounds have explored and indeed brilliantly approached a whole range of thematic topics that are typical of childhood wonder; basically, the authors’ aim here is to enhance children’s imagination, whilst fostering further creative means to promote and vividly mobilize (so to speak) Portuguese culture, language and poetry. And we do tend to believe they have succeeded with flying colours!
As ethnomusicologist and anthropologist Steven Feld says, the term World Music was formerly coined by Robert Brown in the 1960s to celebrate and encourage scholarly studies of musical diversity in the world and the multiple contexts in which music, any music, is created, performed and enjoyed. However, since the 1980s this term has come to represent “the triumph of global sonic industrialization”,which has increasingly debased and trivialised otherness and difference by deterritorialising “ethnicities” and cultures, turning them merely into trade commodities instead.
Bearing in mind the ambiguity, blurriness, possible misuse and/or the sheer complexity of the term nowadays, our ‘World Music’ category here brings songs from different geographies and musical cultures together, which are not included elsewhere, by which we mean in other categories.
Our categorization of early music involves not only an aesthetic dimension, as it happens in other categories of Cantar Mais (“Singing More”), but also the modes and conventions that characterise a particular era.
So, in this case “early music” is a category that is limited to a certain historical period; however, the songs were neither grouped, nor instrumentally arranged necessarily according to principles of historically informed performance, let alone downright ‘authenticity’.
Basically, these songs come from different Portuguese and Castilian songbooks (‘Cancioneiros’) of the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods, many of which have been revamped and rearranged creatively in brand spanking new, rich guises by contemporary composers and educators, for all students to enjoy them and have fun.
Fado is a kind of popular urban song which originated in Lisbon, (arguably) in the mid-19th century.
It is a very peculiar and, as often as not, a tricky genre of performance too, that leaves audiences in raptures as they deeply engage themselves with both singer and players in umpteen communicational processes, ranging ritually from absolute, devotional quietness tovery cheerful and jolly sing-alongs. Indeed, these processes are unique ‘social mobilisers’ of many kinds of verbal, musical and body expression, by means of a whole set of cultural conventions and trends of musical style that govern both live performances and the listening experience of Fado, making it one of Portugal’s major living treasures of intangible cultural heritage.
The chosen repertoire, here, covers old time fados and other exquisite examples of this national music genre where, according to Rui Vieira Nery, “well-established set-tunes” can accommodate new lyrics; you may call these “castiços” or “rigoros”, depending on how the wonderful parody techniques apply to the music.
Lusophony is an overarching, umbrella concept used to describe in political, economic and cultural terms the presumption of a common ground shared by all native citizens of Portuguese-speaking countries. It goes without saying that this is rather a problematic concept from an academic and political point of view, but irrespective of all that, this category encompasses a wide range of songs with which students can experiment and experience diverse expressive practices, as well as both urban and non-urban performance genres from a number of nations that make up the so-called “Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries”.
Cante Alentejano is a traditional singing genre of the Alentejo region in Southern Portugal. It is sung by groups of local amateurs. LikeFado, Cante Alentejano is now part of UNESCO’s world intangible heritage as well. These singing groups are unique (choirs is clearly not the best word to describe them) and perform umpteen types of tunes and poems in wonderful and exquisite vocal styles. In its most traditional drive (as it were), their repertoire is sung ‘a Capella’, without instruments. Typically, a male prompter with the lowest voice starts the motto of usually a strophic song; this voice is then doubled by an upper voice called “alto”, in parallel motion and often with lovely extemporised embellishment added to the tune. The whole group then sings the remainder of the stanzas. Please note that “alto” just means a high-pitched voice in Cante Alentejano, and not strictly a classical alto. Moreover, “alto” is also the voice that usually adds very beautiful melodic flourishment to the tune throughout the song, and it is therefore prominently heard above all the other members’ voices. The lyrics explore such themes as country life, nature, love, or religion.
Cante marvelously depicts and reflects Alentejo’s social and community life, and, very importantly, it fosters dialogue between generations.
Associated with this traditional singing in Alentejo is the term “moda” (as in “fashion”, but rather meaning “our very special way”) to identify the typical vocal genre that shapes Cante Alentejano.
Musical Theatre is a performing art that brings singing, dance and drama/theatre together.
Thus, this musical-theatrical modality can encompass a set of songs and instrumental interludes and whatnot that are interconnected across specific plots and pieces of dramaturgy, thus enhancing interdisciplinary artistic and technical knowledge and skills that involve movement, dance, acting and musical performance, as well as spoken dialogues and scenography.
Song Cycle is a set of songs grouped by the composer who wrote it as an artistic whole in a particular order that refers to a given theme or story, or both at the same time.