Morna, a musical genre from Cape Verde was added this week to UNESCO’S Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Morna is a traditional style that incorporates vocals, music, poetry and dance. Morna can be either sung or played only with instruments, primarily string instruments such as the guitar, violin, and cavaquinho.
The lyric poetry can be improvised, with topics including love, departure, separation, reunion, longing and the motherland. It is currently mainly performed in Cape Verdean Creole.
Practitioners include instrumentalists, singers, poets and composers, and morna is performed at significant life events such as weddings, christenings, and family reunions.
The most famous morna singer for many years was the late Cesaria Evora.
Aristides Paris, better known as Tito Paris, was born the 30th of May 1963 in a family of musical fishermen on the island of Mindelo. Tito received an invitation to play in Bana’s group in Lisbon from the ambassador of Cape Verde music in Portugal when he was just nineteen years old. Since then, Tito has been living in Lisbon although he returns frequently to his native Cape Verde.
La Voz de Cabo Verde was his first group. He played drums then bass, until the day when Dany Silva pushed him to the front of the stage to sing. That was when things fell properly into place and Tito Paris began his career as lead singer.
Tito Paris wrote songs for Bana and Cesaria Evora. As a vocalister, he sings with a sensual, veiled voice, plays his guitar with consummate skill and surrounds himself with his talented family (one brother on drums and another on the bass). The result is a very solid band encompassing cavaquinho, guitar, violin and percussion. The blended sound is steeped with the pure Cape Verde tradition of mornas, coladeiras and funana, and incorporates the electric sounds of urban music.
Fidjo Maguado (“Wronged Son”), an instrumental recording, was Tito’s first album, released in 1985.
For his album Guilhermina, Paris opted for the soft orchestration of string and brass instruments to bring out his guitar playing.
His live album Acústico was released in February 2007. Acústico features the live session of Tito and his band at the Aula Magna in Lisbon.
Teófilo Chantre was born in 1964 on São Nicolau, Cape Verde. His parents migrated to Europe and Teofilo eventually settled in France.
Teofilo Chantre’s songwriting is a place full of nostalgia for the Cape Verdean paradise of childhood. Chantre became well known for his work composing songs for Cape Verde’s greatest singer, Cesária Évora, whom he met in Paris in the 1990s. Teofilo’s songs appeared in Cesaria Evora’s Miss Perfumado (1992) and C’è sempre un motivo (2004) albums.
Recognized primarily as a composer and guitarist, he is also a vocalist of quality, whose tonality is infused with melancholy and longing. His Live album (Lusafrica, 2002) provides a true sense of what he is like on stage.
His style includes mornas, coladeiras, boleros, fusion jazz and Brazilian accents.
His 2007 album Viajá was partially recorded in Mindelo, Cape Verde. It featured Bau, one of the best musicians in Cape Verde and young guitar sensation Hernani Almeida.
Lucibela Freitas Dos Santos, better known as Lucibela, was born in Tarrafal on the island of São Nicolau, one of the Barlavento islands, in Cabo Verde on April 18, 1986.
When Lucibela’s family moved to Mindelo on the island of São Vicente, had an opportunity to develop her singing skills. While in high school, she joined a local band called Mindel Som. Years later, she began to sing in the hotels of Santa Maria on the island of Sal and Sal Rei on the island of Boa Vista. She refined her technique and became an instant hit with the tourists, performing songs made famous by the great singers of Cabo Verde: Cesaria Evora, Titina, and Bana.
In 2012, the young vocalist relocated to Praia where she was almost immediately a star attraction at musical events in the capital. She met different musicians there, including the guitarist Kaku Alves, who had played throughout the world with Cesaria for around 15 years.
In 2016, Lucibela made her debut in Lisbon. Some journalists compared her to Cesaria Evora. “Cesaria is unique and there’ll never be another Cesaria,” humbly asserted the young singer. “My aim is to carry on the work Cesaria began. I want to sing Cabo Verdean musical genres – such as morna and coladera – pretty much anywhere in the world and I want to succeed because of my own talent.”
Lucibela was selected to showcase at the 2017 Atlantic Music Expo – a major music fair where musicians and producers from all over the globe meet in mid-Atlantic in Praia, a focal point of world music. Lucibela became a sensation for the professionals, journalists and show promoters visiting the Expo.
In October and November 2017, Lucibela recorded her first album in Lisbon with highly respected guitarist and arranger Toy Vieira, produced by Lusafrica’s José da Silva. The album, titled Laço Umbilical (Umbilical cord) was released in February 2018.
In 2019 Lucibela released a new edition of Laço Umbilical with new versions of some songs and additional new material as well.
Manuel Lopes Andrade, better known as Tcheka, was born on the 20th July 1973 in the port of Ribeira Barca, Santa Catarina district, on Santiago, the most African island of the Cape Verde archipelago.
At a very early age, he began to perform alongside his father, Nho Raul Andrade, a highly popular violinist at the island’s village dances and festivities. At 15 Tcheka began to develop a more personal style, based on batuku, one of Santiago Island’s more popular rhythms that was originally played by women. His aim was to widen the appeal of batuku, turning it into a beat that everyone would love.
In the meantime, Tcheka left his rural home and went to live in Praia, where he became a cameraman for national television, a job that involved travel and broadened his horizons. In Praia, Tcheka met journalist Julio Rodrigues and wrote a number of songs with him. The two played informally in the bars of the Cape Verdean capital.
Tcheka is well known for his work in modernizing batuku, in much the same way as Catchas updated funana, the other great Santiago beat, in the 1970s.
Providing a new reading of batuku while conserving its traditional structures was the message of Tcheka’s first album, titled Argui (rise / stand up in Creole), released in 2003.
On Tcheka’s followup album, Nu Monda (2005), his first release in the United States, Tcheka continued his batuku work and also explored other styles, such as tabanka, a carnival beat, and talulu, which is played on All Saint’s Day on the island of Fogo. At times, morna chords blend, while at other times the style seems to lean towards funk influences, without ever ceasing to be purely Cape Verdean. Tcheka was backed by Kizo Oliveira (bass guitar), Paul Ribeiro (percussion) and Hernani Almeida, a young guitar prodigy who helped to shape some of Cape Verdean artist Bau’s recordings. The album includes a DVD of a live concert in Lisbon.
Lonji, released in 2007, was produced by Brazilian musician Lenine. It was released in the United States through Times Square Records.
Simentera was an innovative Cape Verdean band that became popular in the world music circuit in the early 2000s.
“If we don’t modernize our music we will end up with a museum-piece in the same way as has already happened in many places around the world. A music which has an ethnographic value and thus ceases to be the expression of a popular feeling,” ” said band founder Mario Lucio de Sousa.
Simentera composed new songs for acoustic instruments. Members of Simentera came from many walks of life. Not only were they accomplished musicians, they also worked in a variety of professions including law, architecture, engineering, medicine, and others. They were one of the few Cape Verdean groups committed to living in their country forever. This may sound like an odd distinction, but the forces they were up against were enormous.
Cape Verde was the last African nation to gain independence from European colonial powers-a factor that has contributed to enthusiasm in national identity. Simentera was dedicated to maintaining this newfound identity and started a foundation for musical preservation. The Simentera Foundation aimed to establish a cultural center, a music school for children, and a CD shop that will promote Cape Verdean artists.
Simentera disbanded in 2004.
Mario Lucio de Sousa was named Cultural Ambassador of Cape Verde in 2011 and received the WOMEX 2014 Professional Excellence Award.
Ildo Lobo was born November 25, 1953 in Sal, Cape Verde. In his native Cape Verde, Ildo Lobo was seen as one of the archipelago’s greatest singers, heir to a tradition shaped by Bana and popularized worldwide by Cesaria Evora. Lobo also had strong political commitments and his plain speaking was legendary.
For years, he was the singer and star of the Os Tubaroes group, long viewed as Cape Verde’s “official” band in the days of the Marxist government. As such, he regularly traveled abroad to represent his country. Os Tubaroes (The Sharks) became the ambassadors of Cape Verdean music, exporting their funana, coladera and morna beats all over the world.
One of its particularities was that none of its members was a full-time musician; they were also lawyers, doctors, civil servants and so on. In fact, Ildo Lobo was a customs officer. It was difficult to keep up another career while working in the performing arts, but in countries such as Cape Verde, it is rarely an option for musicians to practice their art full-time.
In 1996, Ildo Lobo recorded his first solo album, Nos Morna. The record was a tribute to his father who had died a few years before and was composed entirely of mornas. Antoninho Lobo was one of Cape Verde’s great singers, leaving his personal mark on the morna played on the island of Santiago, and his son is carried on the tradition today. Nos Morna was produced by Mario Lucio, the charismatic front man of the band Simentera, and recorded in Paris with the finest musicians from the island of Santiago.
In 2001, Ildo released his album entitled Intelectual still in partnership with his old songwriting companions, but accompanied by Cesaria Evora’s musicians this time.
After some health problems that kept him away from his musical activities for a while, Ildo returned to the studio during the summer 2004, together with Cesaria Evora’s musicians. The pianist Fernando (Nando) Andrade, who made the arrangements on Cesaria’s previous two last albums, produced the album.
Incondicional, whose title clearly illustrated the singer’s uncompromising character, opened with the last morna he wrote: Nha Fidjo Matcho, the advice of a father to his son. It also featured Alto Cutelo, a coladera written by Renato Cardoso (one of Amilcar Cabral’s political heirs, who was mysteriously assassinated at the start of the 1980s), two songs by Betu (Adalberto Silva, his constant companion) and three by Constantino Cardoso (Ildo Lobo wanted to give the young writer his chance).
Ildo Lobo died of a heart attack in the morning of October 20th, 2004, at his home in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. He had been in poor health for a number of months.
With Os Tubarões
Pepe Lopi (1976)
Tchon di Morgado (1976)
Djonsinho Cabral (1978)
Tema para dois (1982)
Os Tubarões (1990)
Os Tubarões ao vivo (1993)
Porton d’ nôs ilha (1994)
Grace Evora was born on February 2, 1969, on the island of Sao Vicente in Cape Verde. Since childhood Grace has displayed an immense interest in music both as a singer and drummer.
Thanks to a musically gifted family, which is highly respected within the Cape Verdean music industry, it is no surprise that this talented musician and singer reached stardom.
At a young age Grace and his parents emigrated to Paris for a short time, and then took permanent residency in Rotterdam, Holland.
Grace’s big break came in 1989, when he was invited to play drums with the group Livity. This opportunity lead to a number of appearances with other groups such as Rabelados, Koladance, Cabo Verde Show and Splash!.
When Livity approached Grace he was already established as a reputable drummer. As luck would have it, the band decided to allow Grace to record one song entitled “Bia” on their second release. This song which represented the sensual and sentimental side of Grace immediately captured an audience that resulted in him becoming a solo artist.
Grace has released several albums, including “Total Love I, Total Love II.” In 1999, Grace collaborated with RB Records, Inc. to release “Romance”.
Total Love I (Lusafrica, 1995)
Total Love II (Atlantic Music, 1996) Romance (RB Records, 1999)
2069 (K-Scale Music, 2017)
Gardénia Benrós was born in the city of Praia, on the island of Santiago, in Cape Verde. Gardénia got her inspiration from the morna traditions of the island of Brava. These influences were present in her first album, released in 1986, where she performed the compositions of the famous poet Eugénio Tavares. Her voice travels through different places and times, bridging the islands, as well as bridging the islands to the world.
Gardénia has inspired poets and composers like Manuel de Novas, João Amaro, Teófilo Chantre, among others. The poet Jomar in the poem “Louvor a Gardénia”, writes: “When singing mornas you are a genie, a messenger for us all, you are beautiful with all courtesy and you bewitch all with your voice.” Throughout her career, she has performed in the United States, where she lives, and she has enchanted audiences with her performances in many countries, including Canada, Barbados, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal and Cape Verde
On different occasions she has been accompanied by musicians from the different areas of Cape Verdean music: Luís Morais and Chico Serra, Tito Paris, Kiki, Jonh Mota, Zé Mário, Péricles Duarte, Batista, Djoy Delgado Danny Carvalho and Manuel d’Candinho, having the last three participated in Bo Kin Cre, where batuque, funaná, morna and coladeira still allow for a touch of samba and salsa.
Gardenia Benrós (Polydor, 1986)
O Melhor De Cabo Verde Mix (MB Records, 1989)
E Sim…! (MB Records, 1990)
O Melhor de Cabo Verde Mix II (MB Records, 1994)
Kryola D’Encantar (Polydor, 1995)
Bo Kin Cre (Independent Talent Productions, 1999)
Morna Nôs Herança (2001)
The Soulful Voice of Cape Verde (Independent Talent Productions, 2006) Flor Caboverdiana (Independent Talent Productions, 2011)
Ferro Gaita was founded in 1996 in the city of Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. From the beginning, the band put their own spin on funana, mixing in snare and hand drums, electric bass, and even a conch shell to create a spirited instrumental backing for an upbeat and energetic live show. They also adopted a signature style of dress, performing in bright daishikis embroidered with print sarongs, all complemented by eccentric accessories and colorful scarves.
Ferro Gaita revolutionized funana for the contemporary audience. Their first album, Fundu Baxu presented funana in its original style and was the highest selling CD in Cape Verde in the year it was released (1997).
Two years later, the band released its second CD, Rei de Tabanka, recorded in the US. It includes unknown traditions like batuke, finaçon and tabanka along with funana, giving the project a completely original and unprecedented sound.
Their album Banda Liberdade (2004) launched them to new heights, solidifying Ferro Gaita as the face of modern Cape Verdean music. All the while, they have stayed true to their origins and, in 2006, they released a live CD/DVD, fittingly titled Finkadu na Raiz, or “Stuck in the Roots”.
Fundu Baxu – Música de Cabo Verde (Cape Disco, 1997)
Rei Di Tabanka (1999) Rei Di Funana (Lusafrica, 2001) Bandera Liberdade (2004)
Live – Finkadu na Raiz (Ferro Gaita Produções, 2006) Festa Fora (AV, 2015)
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