Viola da Terra

The Viola da Terra is one of the oldest known popular musical instruments in the Azorean Archipelago and arrived in the 15th century with the first settlers. The isolation of the Azorean islands as a result of geographical discontinuity allowed the Viola da Terra to acquire different characteristics from island to island, such as: The number of strings (wires) and parts, the tuning, the execution technique and organological differences – the mouth in shaped like two hearts, round, oval or lyre; the shallow or raised arm and the spade with a tuning peg or fan, differences that reflect the uniqueness of man’s relationship with the object in cultural activity and social-dynamic relations.
Throughout history, the aggregating function of the Viola in places, stingrays, popular gatherings such as pig slaughters, religious festivals (Revelers at the Festivities in Honor of the Divine Holy Spirit; Singing to the Stars; Singing to the Boy at Christmas) or with ethnographic content such as folk ranches, who came together to sing on all these occasions, was felt and continues today.
In fact, it was the role it played and continues to play in cultural, social and religious events that gave it enormous importance, forming part of the groom’s dowry and resting during the day on the bed, beautifying the room with its inlaid motifs. The players held a different social status and transmitted their knowledge informally.
Nowadays, teaching how to play Viola da Terra is not just a way of guaranteeing players or continuity, it is also a guarantee of honoring the ancestral knowledge of past generations. In some publications, descriptions are also made of how the Viola itself and/or its player were the subject of mockery in songs. Viola and player as one!
It then became important to combine the informal teaching modality with the need to institutionalize, regulate, in every sense, as a way of self-preservation of culture as part of the identity of the people and the instrument. This form was found by integrating the teaching of Viola da Terra at the Ponta Delgada Regional Conservatory, on a free course basis, becoming recognized in all Artistic Education schools in the Region at secondary education level in 2017/18.
Another form of preservation is through encouraging the construction of the instrument itself, which is faithful to specifications and models that fit it into parameters that comply with the exact characteristics of the Viola da Terra dos Açores and for this we need the agile hands of Certified Azorean Craftsmen. Violas da Terra – Azores, has been the first artisanal product with Geographical Indication in the Azores since 2024.
Ending with a quote from the famous player Rafael Costa Carvalho – “Sharing, questioning, learning and teaching an instrument that couldn’t be taught… it was learned!” and we boldly add…it is built…because this artisanal know-how has also been passed down from generation to generation.


Here you can understand how to apply the logo created for
the brand Violas da Terra – Azores.

Standards Manual

Technical Specifications Booklet


José Agostinho Serpa
9960 - 330 Lajes Flores
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São Miguel

Hugo Raposo
Rua do Peru, 21
9500-340 Ponta Delgada
São Miguel
910 001 271


António Nunes Mota
9700 - 481 Angra do Heroísmo