Cape Verde has global allure

Michael Halstead – The Albuquerque Tribune

September 2, 2005
Sitting just 300 miles off the west coast of Senegal in the North Atlantic stands the lonely, little republic of Cape Verde.
An archipelago of 10 main islands and a half-dozen islets, Cape Verde is isolated from the rest of the world.
However, Cape Verde’s estrangement from the world is the rest of the world’s musical gain. Because the islands are separated by vast distances, each island has developed its own distinct identity and culture. As a result, Cape Verde offers an unprecedented treasure trove of rich, musical diversity. Its cross-pollination of West African and Western European traditions, gracefully mingled with themes of yearning and loss, offers a singularly stunning musical tradition of exposed emotion and one-of-a-kind musicianship.
“So many of our songs are about emigration,” says Lura, a Cape Verdean singer by way of Lisbon, Portugal. “And so many of our songs are about missing family and friends.”
What: Globalquerque world music festival, featuring Rahim AlHaj (Iraq); the Bills (Canada); Black Eagle (Jemez Pueblo); Majek Mashek and the Prisoners of Conscience (Nigeria); the Fula Flute Ensemble (Guinea/Mali/Canada/United States); Marta Gomez and Los Changos (Colombia/Argentina); Markus James and Wassonrai (U.S.Mali); Los Reyes de Albuquerque (New Mexico); Lura (Cape Verde/Portugal); Niyaz (Iran/United States); NoJazz (France); Samarabalouf (Gypsy/France).
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 Fourth St. S.W.
How much: $25 in advance/$30 at the door. Tickets available at Ticketmaster: or 883-7800.
Lura brings her sultry and sensual voice to the National Hispanic Cultural Center next week for Globalquerque, a music festival featuring a dozen musical acts from around the world.
“What makes the music of Cape Verde remarkable is the confluence of colonialism and Africa,” says Tom Frouge, 48, co-producer of Globalquerque. “Until recently, it’s as though the music of the country was held in an amber bubble.”
Frouge cites the legendary Cape Verdean diva, Cesaria Evora, as an example of the music’s timelessness. The Grammy-winning Evora put Cape Verdean music on the map in the Õ90s with her spellbinding, melancholy ballads sung in Portuguese-Creole.
Known primarily for singing in the morna style – a brand of Cape Verdean singing that draws from Portuguese, Brazilian and English folk traditions – Evora vaulted to international stardom singing about the tiny republic’s themes of African slavery, emigration and bitter isolation.
The feeling of the music can be summed up in one word: Saudade.
“It is an important Portuguese word in Cape Verde that means to miss someone or some place,” says Lura by phone from her home in Lisbon. “It’s not easily translated into English, but the meaning of the word mixes nostalgia and sadness.”
Lura toured with Evora in 2002, and was inspired by her to pen a song, “Tem Um Hora Pa Tude (There is Time Enough for Everything)” for her latest record.
However, Lura is quick to point out that she draws from a different Cape Verdean musical tradition than her world famous counterpart.
“Cesaria is from the island of Sao Vicente and sings songs that have more of a Portuguese influence,” says Lura in halting, deliberate English. “I sing the music from Santiago, an island in the south. The music is more African, more for dancing.”
If Evora’s signature songs are of lament and longing, Lura’s poly-rhythmic songs reflect the joyous anticipation of coming home.
Lura was born in Lisbon in 1975, the same year Cape Verde gained its independence from Portugal.
Before independence, the African-influenced styles that Lura performs – Batuku and, in particular, the accordion-driven Funana – were banned by the colonial government and frowned upon by the local churches as too erotic.
Lura laughs, acknowledging that the music is indeed faster-paced and has a deserved reputation for being more sensual. She says most African dances move only from the waist down and most Portuguese dances exaggerate movements from the waist up. She says the styles of music have been in Cape Verde for centuries and only now, since Cape Verdean independence, are experiencing resurgence.
The themes of her music still draw on themes of saudade, but Lura, who visits the little archipelago two or three times a year, says the music also expresses the joyful side of the country.
“The people of Cape Verde are separated, and even on the islands the houses can be very far apart,” she says. “So when they meet a stranger, they instinctively receive that person with openness and happiness.”
“The people of Cabo (Cape) Verde aren’t afraid to show their emotions,” she adds, “and they express themselves in the way they dance, sing and play.”
Lura has visited the United States before, performing in cities like Boston that have notably large Cape Verdean ?migr? communities. This will be the first tour, though, that brings her to the West.
“This is a real coup for us,” says Frouge. “She hasn’t played in the western United States before, so we are really anticipating having her here.”
When asked about the climate of Cape Verde, Lura describes a place that is “hot and dry, with very little rain.”
Sounds a lot like Albuquerque.
“Ah, like Cabo Verde,” the singer sighs. She pauses from the phone conversation to ask her English translator to clarify a phrase.
“Then I guess I should feel right at home.
2005 © The Albuquerque Tribune,2564,ALBQ_19846_4047552,00.html

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