The unequivocal voice of Cape Verdean music is Cesária Évora, hands-down. The most popular and most well-known style of music Cape Verde is known for is called morna, for which Cesária Évora (also known as “The Barefoot Diva”) helped bring to the international forefront. Morna is a kind of folk music, consisting of violins, guitars, clarinets, piano, and an instrument called cavaquinho (a type of small, four-string guitar – when the Portuguese brought it to Hawai’i, it developed into the ukelele). Most often, the lyrics are in Crioulo, and the topics range from love, to mourning, to patriotism, although there are light-hearted songs too. Eugénio Tavares, whom I mentioned earlier as a poet, was also instrumental (no pun intended) in creating and making the morna genre popular.
Other styles include funaná, a style originating out of Santiago that includes accordion (one of my favorite instruments). At one time, the colonial rules disparaged this style for its “African” sounds.
Batuque started out as a form of women’s folk music, but later morphed itself as an improvisational form with satirical or criticizing lyrics. One musician I came across who performs in this style (although it may have changed somewhat) is Mayra Andrade. I listened to some of her stuff on Spotify and I really like it. Enough to add to my playlist.
Coladeira is style of music that is also the name of a coordinating dance as well. As a musical form, it’s mostly performed in a two-beat bar and the harmonic structure is based on the cycle of fifths (something influenced by the Portuguese perhaps?). Harmonically and melodically, it is related to and similar to the morna, although it’s different on many levels. Instrumentation is similar, except with the addition of percussion and some horns. In more recent times (ok, starting with the 1960s, which really isn’t all that recent, unless you’re looking historically since the beginning of time, then I suppose it is), electric guitars and such have been used.
As a dance, the coladeira is considered a ballroom dance. The dancers dance in pairs with one arm around each other and the other arms are holding hands. The main movements involve swinging from side to side, marking the two-beat bars in the music.
Besides Cesária Évora, I’ve discovered several other Cape Verdean artists who bear mentioning. First of all, a few months ago when I was researching Botswana, I came across the reggae musician Mo’ Kalamity, who I found out was from Cape Verde. When we got our tax refund check, I bought both of her albums. (One album is actually Mo’ Kalamity and the Wizards.) I absolutely love these albums – the music stays in my head all day. And I really like this style of reggae; it’s far more melodic than other styles, and it’s a little slower, a little more chill-out.
While researching, I came across many other musicians that I liked. Many of them are also morna musicians (incorporating other styles as well), like Teofilo Chantre, Ildo Lobo, Luis Morais, Maria de Barros, Sara Tavares (who I really like!), among others. If you really like acoustic guitar or classical guitar, I found an album called Dôs by Vasco Martins and Voginha. It’s a very good album, very relaxing. Of course, I’ve always been a fan of acoustic guitar, and it’s my dream that one day, I might be able to learn the guitar.
Up next: the food!