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Cantoria, a tradition of improvised, sung popular poetry practiced in Northeastern Brazil. It consists of two poets, or cantadores, singing alternate strophes in a given style while accompanying themselves on musical instruments: repentistas on the guitarlike viola, emboladores on tambourines or shakers. Because of its improvised nature the poetry is referred to as the repente, from the Portuguese word for "sudden." Sometimes the singing takes on the character of a desafio (challenge) between contestants. The tunes are repetitive and melodically simple; the focus is on the content and beauty of the poetry and on adherence to a given metric pattern and rhyme scheme. These patterns derive from traditional European poetics, reflecting the historical roots of cantoria in the troubadour tradition of southern Europe. Historically cantoria belonged to the rural interior of the Northeast. Currently it is finding its way into urban centers.

See alsoBaião; Banda de Pífanos; MPB: Música Popular Brasileira.


F. Coutinho Filho, Violas e repentes (1953).

Leonardo Mota, Violeiros do Norte, 4th ed. (1976), and Cantadores, 5th ed. (1978).

Luís Da Camara Cascudo, Coleção reconquista do Brasil. Vol. 81, Vaqueiros e cantadores (1984), pp. 126-226.

Additional Bibliography

Crook, Larry. Brazilian Music: Northeastern Traditions and the Heartbeat of a Modern Nation. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

Fox, Jennifer Colleen. "O vate canta: Experiencing the Cantoria Tradition of Northeastern Brasil." Ph.D. diss., University of Texas, at Austin, 1997.

Murphy, John P. Music in Brazil: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

                                          Jennifer Fox

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