Cape Verdean music

Cape Verde is a small group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, 480 kilometers (300 miles) west of Senegal.

Brief History

The islands were uninhabited until the 1400s when the Portuguese navigators started to use Cape Verde as a trade base for ships moving goods and as their slaving stations on their way to Brazil and Europe.

Repeated droughts during the second half of the 20th century caused significant hardship and prompted heavy emigration to Portugal and the United States of America. As a result, Cape Verde’s expatriate population is greater than its domestic one. Most Cape Verdeans have both African and Portuguese ancestry.

Cape Verdean music

The first European colonial town in Africa was founded in Cape Verde in 1462. Thus, the music of Cape Verde reflects both Portuguese and West African roots. The best known artist from Cape Verde is the late Cesaria Evora.

Cape Verdean musical Genres

Batuku – A tradition that traces its roots to women working in the fields under Portuguese colonial rule. Banned from using drums, Santiago’s women bound up cloth in tight bundles to serve as percussion instruments, creating a backbeat to their songs of births, deaths, hopes and heartbreaks. Traditionally, batuku would be played after work in the fields. Sitting in a circle, the women tapped on a tchabeta, a bundle of cloth, normally made of piled loincloths that they rolled up and held between their legs. Depending on the thickness and compression of the fabric used, these cloth drums produced a variety of sounds.

Batuku provided an accompaniment for finason, a vocal style that the women improvised to suit their audience and the occasion. The singers would comment on village events: farming festivals, births, marriages and deaths. Sometimes one of them would enter the terrero (the inside of the circle) and dance.

Today, these traditions have been radically updated. Firstly, the women, who hardly ever wear loincloths now, make their drums from plastic bags. Stacked and folded in the customary way, they produce a wide range of sounds. Secondly, young men are adopting these traditional styles, their childhood lullaby, to assert their African identity more actively. Tcheka is one of the batuku innovators. Batuku is also known as batuk and batuque.

Coladeira – An upbeat rhythm, suitable for partying and dancing. A good example of a coladeira artist is Fantcha, a protege of Cesaria Evora.

Morna – A melancholic and soulful genre that is often sung in Creole-Portuguese. The instruments used are usually the acoustic sounds of guitar, cavaquinho, violin, accordion, and clarinet.

Cape Verdean Musicians

Boy Ge Mendes
Cesaria Evora
Ferro Gaita
Grace Evora
Ildo Lobo
Teofilo Chantre
Tito Paris