Cape Verdean Singer-songwriter and Activist Norberto Tavares Dies

Norberto Tavares
Cape Verdean musician Norberto Tavares (1956-2010) died December 26th in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Tavares suffered from complications from diabetes and kidney failure. He had a kidney transplant two years ago but never regained full health.

“He was a major figure in the Cape Verdean diaspora musical scene since the 1980s,” said ethnomusicologist Susan Hurley-Glowa. Norberto Tavares was born on June 6, 1956 in Assomada, Santiago (Cape Verde). He was the son of a well-known local musician, Aristides Tavares, who played violin and other string instruments. After his father’s death when Norberto was nine, Norberto learned how to play guitar, keyboards, and accordion on his own. He was encouraged by a local priest to play the organ as a boy and practiced on the instrument in the Catholic church in Assomada. Norberto began making a name for himself as a songwriter in his early teens.

He left Cape Verde for Portugal in 1973. Accompanying himself on guitar, Norberto composed his own funana and batuko songs, styles he knew well from his upbringing in a musical Badiu family from Santa Caterina. He formed a band called Black Power in Lisbon with other musicians from Cape Verde. Norberto released his first album of ‘electric funana and batuko’ in 1975, slightly before Katchás made his version of funana widely popular with Bulimundo. Norberto produced several more recordings in Portugal and toured widely with his band, before emigrating to the United States in 1979.

In his new country, Norberto Tavares founded a band called Tropical Power. It became one of the most famous of the Cape Verdean bands based in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. At that time Cape Verdean music was being heard throughout New England at various dancehalls. Some of the cities include Providence, Pawtucket, and East Providence in Rhode Island, Brockton, Boston, New Bedford in Massachusetts, and Waterbury and Bridgeport in Connecticut.

Best of Norberto Tavares CD
Tavares and Susan Hurley-Glowa worked on music research projects collaboratively since 1990. Susan Hurley-Glowa has just released a documentary film about Norberto and his role a social advocate through his music (2010). The film is distributed by Peter Davis at Villon Films.

The documentary explains and contextualizes the parallel journeys of Tavares and the Independent Republic of Cape Verde. It describes aspects of the musical lives of Cape Verdean-Americans, and in the process documents Tavares’s strong connections to the country he left behind.

The story begins with the final rehearsal before an annual music festival in Praia, Cape Verde, and then turns to the Cape Verdean-American communities of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Tavares struggled to make a living as a freelance musician.

The film traces Tavares’s musical career back to its source of inspiration: the traditional funana and batuku musicians living on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde. Tavares used his music to comment on problems in Cape Verde, and one of the sub-themes in the film explores tensions between women and men in Cape Verde today. The documentary ends with Tavares’s highly celebrated performance for some 40,000 fans at the Festa da Gamboa in Praia, Cape Verde on May 21, 2005. It was shot on location in Cape Verde and New England.

Tavares’ discography includes: Best of Norberto Tavares (2005), Dirigentes Inconscientes (2001), Maria (Zé Orlando, 1998), Hino di Unificaçon (Lusafrica, 1993), Jornada di un Badiu (Lusafrica, 1989), Tropical Power – A Musical Connection (1984), Mundo Sta di Boita (1982), Volta Pa Fonti (1979), Black Power is Back (1978), Nôs Cabo Verde di Sperança (1976) and Black Power, Volume 1 (1975).

Sections of Tavares’ biography were edited from an original biography by Susan Hurley-Glowa.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


3 thoughts on “Cape Verdean Singer-songwriter and Activist Norberto Tavares Dies”

  1. He was a wonderful kind and gentle man, what an honor to have had the opportunity to call him my friend.

  2. Os meus pesâmos a família do falecido. Norberto Tavares foi uma das figuras da música que merece todo o mérito de um verdadeiro filho da terra. Um grande homem que nunca teve receio de mostrar o seu verdadeiro essência. Nunca lhe vi ao vivo. Conheço apenas a grande herança que nos deixou as suas composições. Senhor da voz inconfundível.
    .Amei o seu trabalho desde do inicio. Através da música transmitiu-me uma pessoa cheio de valores e princípios. Muito assertivo no seu pensamento e seguro de si. Bendito sejá o seu nome que por quatro canto do mundo se espalha no meio da comunidade dos emigrantes cabo-verdiano. E agora permanece entre os anjos a sua alma.
    Que a sua alma descansa em paz. Poucos de nós um dia fará metade do que ele fez pelo povo de cabo-verde.

  3. abo era demas voz inconfundivel eca tudo dia que nanci homi sima norberto tavares n’ta comparabu a bob marley e canta ingratidao de mundu e mundu ebiola pa nu tocal nu tem qui tem mo de ferro cedo e abri boca e fla cussa qui ca sta dreto e fla ma antis de mundu caba negru ta bem mostra ma el e alguem nu djobi undi qui obama sta e canta contra aparthetd na africa du sul nu sjobi mandela e fla nu nanci sem nu sabi pamodi pa nu carrega peso de ingratidao volta pa fonti pa mi e ,si midjor album nu fazi sima eflano nu volta pa undi que di nos ami e bu fam descansa em paz n’ta espera qui black power ta dura tcheu tempo um abrasso napoleon x ((((( necha nhaga—((
    viva black power

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