What is actually… Desgarradas?

Desgarrada, is a popular song in which the singers improvise, challenging and responding to each other, usually to the sound of a concertina. In addition to “Desgarradas”, they are also called Cantares ao Desafio, Cantigas ao Desafio, Cantigas à Desgarrada, etc.

The term is also used to characterize a form of fado interpretation, in this case accompanied by viola and Portuguese guitar, with renowned performers such as Fernando Maurício or Vicente da Câmara.

Among the artists who recorded strays we can find names like Quim Barreiros, Augusto Canário or even Jorge Ferreira, who visited this genre several times.

Linked to festive occasions, such as pilgrimages, fairs, desfolhadas, evenings, etc., or in Encontros de Cantadores, the desgarradas can eventually be heard throughout the country, although the traditions are deeper in Trás-os-Montes, provinces of Minho, in the Douro Litoral and Beira Alta.

In the challenging songs, for long minutes, themes such as mockery and curses, love and hate, faith and charity are addressed, improvising the rhymes and responding, preferably in a joking way, to the other singer, with troubadour origins being found.

It is possible to find, in a 1927 edition, the following reference to the intervention of a singer:
[…] one, singing in defiance, stripped like this when the singer mentioned her freckles:
«You call me lensy, – It was God’s good that I had them; The sky is also beautiful, – And it has its stars!»
– in, Trabalhos de antropologia e etnologia, Volume 3, 1927

In 2005, the chants to the challenge or the Galician regueifas were part of the candidacy of the “Galician-Portuguese oral tradition” for Intangible Heritage of Humanity, at UNESCO. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rejected this application considering it too broad.

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