“Hear a viola campaniça is to answer a call. Not the abyss or misfortune, but to an area where peace of mind involves us, as chrysalis woven of sweet and downy tufts. Alentejo Modas (songs) seem to come from in-depth, breaking free of shackles, linking them to the perennial and beautiful things, like childhood memories.”
José Luís Jones in Viola Campaniça , Ilha dos Vidros
The popular Portuguese Viola arrived to this day in various forms and names: Braguesa, Ramaldeira, Amarantina, Toeira, de Arame, da Terra, Campaniça. Apparently distinct, they are after all popular expressions belonging to the same group of string instruments, the wire violas.
In lower Alentejo Viola is called Campaniça. The first historical news establishing the terminological link between the Alentejo’s viola and the campaniça region dates of 1916.
The Viola Campaniça arises with most outstanding notice in the area of "Campo Branco” (“White Field”), geographically located in the region composed with the municipalities of Aljustrel, Ourique, Castro Verde, Almodôvar and a part of the Odemira. There is also reference of this viola in other areas of the lower Alentejo, including Beja and Serpa.
Following the Singing “ao desafio” (at challenge), the campaniça modas (songs) or the simple steps of a brief dance, the viola campaniça was present at dances, fairs and festivals, such as the Festa da Senhora da Cola (Feast of Our Lady of Glue) or Feira de Castro (Fair of Castro), animated social gatherings, also playing an important role in the taverns where men from the village gathered. However, this social and cultural context has been changing, violas started to get forgotten within the chests and cabinets, the dances began to require modern sounds of which Campaniça had long ago ceased to be part of.
In the late 80s there were only two players, Manuel Bento and his uncle Francisco António, naturals from Aldeia Nova (Ourique). It was then that arose a revitalization movement of the Viola Campaniça, triggered by the appearance of radio programs like “ Património” (“Heritage”) presented by José Francisco Colaço Guerreiro (Radio Castrense) or “Lugar Ao Sul” (“Place In The South”) presented by Rafael Correia (Antena 1). The first still remains and boosted the appearance of Viola Campaniça Group formed initially by the above mentioned two players and the singer Perpétua Maria. Within this context new players appear, ethnomusicologists, such as José Alberto Sardinha and other researchers and onlookers who became seduced by the touch of Viola Campaniça and have developed an important action of safeguarding and promoting this viola, becoming now a familiar sound.