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.
Pour Me A Grog: The Funaná Revolt in 1990s Cabo Verde is a tribute to the great masters of Cape Verdean funaná music. Funaná is upbeat, irresistible dance music from Santiago Island fueled by accordion (the accordion is known as gaita in Cape Verde) and supported by percussion, bass and a scraped iron instrument known as ferrinho that is used in Cape Verde.
This compilation brings together recordings by some of the finest artists in the funaná scene in the late 1990s, including many pioneering elders. These are high quality recordings funded by members of the Cape Verdean diaspora compiled by Vik Sohonie & Olav Aalberg.
The artists featured in Pour Me A Grog: The Funaná Revolt in 1990s Cabo Ve include the groundbreaking Ferro Gaita, one of the most successful acts in Cape Verde in terms of album sales, along with several other masters: Etalvinho Preta; Tchota Suari e Chando Graciosa; Avelino e Orlando Pantera; Peps Love; Bitori e Fefé di Calbicera; Orlando Pantera; and Fefé di Calbicera.
The physical CD version of the album is worth getting. It comes in a beautifully-designed hard cover book with fascinating artwork and extensive notes about the music and the artists featured. The design is by Pete ‘Piwi’ White and the illustration by Lauren O’Neill. The album is also available on vinyl and digital.
The album title refers to grog, an alcoholic beverage made in Cape Verde distilled from sugarcane.
Lucibela, one of the great new voices of Cape Verde, entered the world music scene in 2018 with her debut album Laço Umbilical. Now, in 2019, Lisbon-based Lucibela has re-released a new version of the album titled Laço Umbilical Bonus Version. This second edition includes a new song titled “Ti Jon Poca” and a new cover.
Additionally, two of the original tracks are now duets. “Dona Ana” is now a collaboration with the celebrated Angolan singer Bonga, and “Sai Fora” (formerly known as “Mal Amadu” on the first version of the album) incorporates North African raï influences contributed by Algerian artist Sofiane Saidi.
Lucibela’s style is deeply inspired by the late Cesaria Evora. She is gifted with a captivating vocal technique and focuses on two genres, morna and coladera. The album includes lyrics by Cape Verde’s best songwriters and songs delicately -arranged by guitar and cavaquinho maestro Toy Vieira.
The musicians on Laço Umbilical (Bonus Version include Lucibela on vocals; Toy Vieira on: acoustic guitar and cavaquinho; Bonga on vocals; Sofiane Saidi on vocals; Vaiss on acoustic guitar; Stephan Almeida on cavaquinho; Djim Job on bass; Nir Paris and Miroca Paris on percussion; Totinho on soprano saxophone; Mario Marta and Marise Vasconcelhos on backing vocals; Maryll Abbas on accordion; Julián Corrales on violin; Thierry Fanfant on bass; Hernani Almeida on semi acoustic guitar; and Daniel Rodriguez on cello.
Sara Tavares was only 16 years old, when she won two of Portugal’s most prestigious TV music contests. Born out of a second generation Cape Verdean immigrants, Sara grew up between two cultures.
Initially known as a singer and composer of Gospel, Soul and Funk, she gradually incorporated more of her African music in her compositions. In 1994, she recorded her first album Sara Tavares & Shout, released in 1996. To present the album she performed all over Portugal, Cape Verde, and France.
Her second album Mi Ma Bô, produced by Lokua Kanza, reached gold in Portugal. The album was a mix of African rhythms and melodic pop songs.
By the end of 1998, Sara Tavares decided to start working on her new album. To achieve that, she stopped performing, and went through a long period of introspection to search for her real roots and influences.
As a result of such profound search, Mi Ma Bô was born. Mi Ma Bô, which translated from the criolo (language from Cape Verde) means “Me and You”, is an intimate album, wherein Sara’s voice links all the emotions expressed in its lyrics and melodies.
In this record, Sara Tavares establishes herself not only as a huge musical talent, but also as a composer and co-producer, which assures us of her maturity, her talent and of the long career she has in front of her.
Mi Ma Bô was produced by Lokua Kanza, a musician from Congo, living in Paris. He has previously worked with other African artists such as Ray Lema, Manu Dibango, Papa Wemba, Miriam Makeba and Youssou N’dour. Together with Sara’s co-production, the final result is a very special album, with African colours and a touch of soul, that winds up stirring the listener’s soul.
Sung in three different languages (Portuguese, Criolo and English), “Mi Ma Bô” really shows the universality of the language of music. The album reached gold status in Portugal.
In 2006, her third album, Balancê, came out on World Connection (Europe) and Times Square (North America).
Sara Tavares has become one of the leading exponents of Lisbon’s world music scene. “There is a big, big generation of Cape Verdeans and other Africans here in Lisbon, in Paris, in Boston, all over; with a kind of messed-up identity,” says Tavares. “Our generation feels very lost because there is no culture specifically for us; that talks about our reality.”
“When I walk around with my friends, it’s a very, very interesting community,” Tavares explains. “We speak Portuguese slang, Angolan slang, some words in Cape Verdean Crioulo, and of course some English. In Crioulo there are already English and French words. This is because slaves from all over the world had to communicate and didn’t speak the same languages. We are a metisse culture.”
Multilingual wordplay shows up throughout Tavares’ album, and she hops across cultural references as much as she embraces any. The album title Balancê has many different meanings. The noun balan?o is used in Portuguese when music swings. Lusophone Africans use the verb form Balancê in a more general way. “When you are eating something really good you say “this food is Balancê!“? explains Tavares.
“For me the song, Balancê is also about balancing yourself,” Tavares continues, “between sadness and joy; day and night; salt and sugar. It’s about balancing emotions. You are always walking a thin line and you have to keep your balance. You have to dance with that line in order to keep standing. If you stay too rigid, you will fall.”
“I was in Zimbabwe a few years ago and I saw some really drunk people dancing,” Tavares chuckles. “We were watching them, and they were always almost falling and then they would catch themselves. Just like those people dancing, I also want to dance with that kind of freedom and balance.”
Through music, Tavares seeks cultural roots, along with the help of veteran African musicians in Lisbon and back in Cape Verde where she travels every year.
“The whole album is like little lullabies to myself,” says Tavares. “All the messages are about self-esteem, loving yourself. About liking what is different in you. About integrating all the parts of you.”
“Bom Feeling,” whose title combines a Portuguese word with an English word that “everyone uses,” translates as “Good Feeling.” While some people look down on the Portuguese slang associated with African people in Portugal, Tavares embraces it. Tavares says she is from a “broken home” and identifies with street culture.
“Poka Terra” is influenced by Afro-Beat and semba (a style from Angola). The song’s title is an onomatopoeia for the sound a train makes. Tavares is calling on people to catch the train of consciousness and to become responsible for yourself. She sings “An alligator that sleeps will be turned into an alligator bag sold in some store.”
On “Planeta Sukri” (Sugar Planet) Tavares places a reggae style sound system on top of a traditional Cape Verdean rhythm coladeira (a style made popular by Cesaria Evora). “The poem of this song can be seen as a love poem,” says Tavares. “I am saying “Take me to a sugar planet, take me to place where there is no sadness, no cries. And this place is inside of you and me and everyone.” I mean it more in a spiritual way than a romantic way. The ballads are very much like little prayers.”
Tavares talks to the moon on “Muna Xeia” (Full Moon). The song title emerged when Tavares made a mistake and accidentally combined the English word “moon” with the Portuguese word for the same “lua.” “It’s a very feminine song with me talking to the women,” Tavares explains. “First the woman inside of me and then the women in Africa and the women in the world. I sing, “Moon go in peace, moon go in faith, walk in peace, walk in faith.””
Tavares spent time in Cape Verde working with a contemporary dance company. “You know how contemporary artists do crazy experimental stuff” she asks. “Well, they gave me the strength to experiment. If those who live in and own the culture, then we in diaspora can also experiment. As long as someone keeps the tradition. It’s a two-sided knife.”
“I want to be a part of a movement like the African Americans were, like the African Brazilians were,” Tavares says. “Instead of doing the music of their ancestors, they have created this musical identity of their own. And it is now respected. It is considered whole and authentic and genuine. It will be a long time before the people from my generation do not have to choose between being African or European. I think you shouldn’t have to choose. You should just be there. Celebrate that. Be that!”
Sara Tavares & Shout! (BMG Portugal, 1996)
Mi Ma Bô (RCA, 1999) Balancê (Times Square Records, 2005) Xinti (World Connection, 2009) Fitxadu (Sony Music, 2017)
Born in Lisbon in 1975, Lura discovered her Cape Verdean identity (while remaining fully Portuguese) through the Creole she learned with her friends at school. As a child, she wanted to be a dancer. Later, she taught swimming. Finally, music drew her from the swimming pool.
Her first eponymous album with the famous song “Nha vida” was released in Lisbon on the 31st July 1996, her 21st birthday. Lura’s extraordinary voice shines on this record, which includes some of the greatest performers in the Portuguese-speaking world: Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso, Teresa Salgueiro, Filipa Pais, Djavan and Bonga.
In 2002, Lura released her second album, In Love, with the Lusafrica label. She wrote seven of the twelve songs.
Lura’s 2004 album, Di Korpu Ku Alma (Of body and soul) fully justifies one’s most optimistic predictions.
Portuguese-Cape Verdean vocalist Lura has a new EP titled “Alguem di Alguem.” The recording features funaná, a vigorous, cheerful dance rhythm, as well as a duet with Gaël Faye. It’s a cover of the Teofilo Chantre song “Crepuscular Solidão”, a tribute to Cesaria Evora that the two artists performed for the first time in public at the 2018 Sakifo Festival on Reunion Island.
Rotterdam-based band Tabanka plays lively music from Cape Verde. The band was inspired by artists from an earlier generation, such as Bulimundo and Américo Brito. Tabanka performs a contemporary version of funaná, a danceable and energetic music of the Cape Verdean island of Santiago. Funaná is the music of the descendants of slaves that was combined in the 1980s with pop and jazz. It became part of the Cape Verdean identity after independence. The foundation for Funaná is the diatonic accordion (gaita) and the ferrinho, a metal rod with notches which is grated.
The lineup in 2018: Pai Gomes on gaita, lead vocals; Tati Gomes on drums, vocals; Jason Gomes on bass; Jerry Gomes on percussion, vocals; Hat Gomes on percussion, vocals; Tomas on percussion, vocals; Landy on guitar and vocals.
Manhã Florida is the fifth album by Nancy Vieira, one of the finest performers in the Cape Verdean music scene. Although born in Guinea Bissau to Cape Verdean parents and currently living in Portugal, Nancy’s music has deep Cape Verdean roots.
Nancy Vieira has a captivating voice that captures the essence of longing and joy of life. The songs by leading Cape Verdean songwriters and the musical arrangements with exquisite guitars and cavaquinho have a similar flavor to the sound developed by the late Cesaria Evora.
The album was produced by acclaimed guitarist Teofilo Chantre and features a large cast of Cape Verdean musicians.
Laço Umbilical is the debut album Lucibela, one of the great new female vocalists from Cape Verde. Lucibela has a deep, charming voice and a style that has been compared the iconic Cesaria Evora. Indeed, Lucibela specializes in two genres, morna and coladera, that Cesaria Evora made popular.
The album features lyrics by Cape Verde’s finest songwriters and songs exquisitely-arranged by guitar and cavaquinho virtuoso Toy Vieira. There is superb guitar and percussion work throughout the album.
The lineup includes Lucibela on vocals; Toy Vieira on: acoustic guitar and cavaquinho; Vaiss on acoustic guitar; Stephan Almeida on cavaquinho; Djim Job on bass; Nir Paris and Miroca Paris on percussion; Totinho on soprano saxophone; Mario Marta and Marise Vasconcelhos on backing vocals; Maryll Abbas on accordion; Julián Corrales on violin; Thierry Fanfant on bass; Hernani Almeida on semi acoustic guitar; and Daniel Rodriguez on cello.
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.