A group of young lads from the town of Beja under the name “Os Bubedanas” have set about to bring traditional chants from the Portuguese Alentejo region to a new and enlarged audience. By digging deep in the popular songbook of this region they have discovered a huge wealth of songs of love, despair, regret, rage and hope. On the day when UNESCO acknowledged the traditional chant from Alentejo as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity we give you an interview with this choral group.
Ask someone to sing you a traditional song in a bar in Beja or elsewhere in the vast region of Alentejo and everyone around will immediately join in. Sung mostly by powerful men’s voices, it usually begins with a couple of verses sung solo, followed by a refrain of powerful voices. The end-result is one of the most emotional sensations one can experience as commotion and goose bumps slowly invades your body. By looking at the myriad of choral groups singing these polyphonic chants one could assume this is the preserve of old men and women. But in recent years a number of young musicians and singers began approaching this region’s songbook. And it was among the myriad of names that we found Os Budedanas, a name one could translate as binge drinkers from the region where binge singing is common practice.
Trendenz – Who came up with the idea of making a choral group formed only by young people?
Budedanas – We all were born and live in this region. These chants have always been there, we used to listen to our older relatives sing it and we respected it and it did touch us. In December 2011 there was a Young Talents competition and a group of friends from the same school joined and said: “Why not form a choir and participate in the competition? Let’s do it just for fun”. And that’s how we joined the contest and won. After that we received a number of invitations for shows and we created “Os Bubedanas”.
T – Did you feel at the time that this art of singing was too connected to third age and to the agricultural tradition of this region?
B – Yes, in the beginning, as the “few” songs we knew spoke of the fields, the land, agriculture…But as time elapsed we began discovering more songs about love, death, family… and we grew fond of such a rich songbook.
T – Did you use to sing this king of chants before creating Os Budedanas?
B – Yes, in school dinners, at home. But from the moment we created the group we did not stop singing, we were singing all the time, in the shower, in parties, everywhere!
T – What are your major references?
B – We have a number of references and we had the pleasure of having shared the stage with them and to be able to know them and to learn with them. Rancho de Cantadores de Aldeia Nova de São Bento, Adiafa, A Moda Mãe, Os Ganhões de Castro Verde, António Zambujo. They all have had a great influence on us. They are true icons for us.
T – Do you intend to just sing songs from the Alentejo songbook or do you wish to bring a new life to it?
B – Our work as singers is to bring the Songbook and the Culture of our Alentejo to a broader audience, singing it our way, but with some slightly different approaches when compared to other choral groups.
T – How can we renovate the Songbook from the Alentejo considering that the reality of this region has changed? Do you feel the need to approach new realities, new life experiences, more attuned to the current reality of the Alentejo?
B – We feel that reality may have changed, but relations with the past are strong and we can somehow establish a link between today and the days of ore. We are talking of a time and feelings that were once lived and experienced but that are pretty much there in our daily lives.
T – You are about to release a record. Will it focus on the traditional songbook or do you intend to come up with original songs?
B – All the songs that we recorded so far are from the Traditional Songbook with some new vocal and instrumental arrangements. We have also added some verses in some of these songs.
T – You are having a great impact in the media for being a young group with a contemporary look. Was it intentional or did this exposure come as a surprise?
B – All we have achieved today as a Group and voice of a new generation was achieved naturally, the same with this project. We grabbed it with enough ambition and desire to progress.
T – Beja is somehow underrated. Do you intend to put it back on the map?
B – Beja is our city, our shelter, our place. We love our city, this is where we grew up and learned to be who we are. Every time we leave Beja we take this Alentejo feeling with us, this sense of being from a town like this. Our aim is to publicise our land and our people.
T – What are your plans for the future?
B – As young choral singers we wish both in the short and long term to bring a new dynamics to this art of singing and bring it closer to a wider audience. We will be releasing our first album soon and we want to present it both in Portugal and abroad.