Cape Verde picture The Cape Verde Islands, located off the West African coast near Senegal, have one of the richest musical traditions of all the Lusophone (Portuguese language) countries. The basic musical form is the morna, a languid, florid ballad style which is closely related to the Portuguese fado. Cape Verde's best-known musician, the stunning vocalist Cesaria Evora, has recently become an internationally-known celebrity, and with her celebrity has come a growing awareness of Cape Verde's booming musical scene. Here is a sampling of a few artists and records which are worth checking out.


Maria Alice "Ilha D' Sal" (Ovacao, 1993)

Maria Alice "D'Zemcontre" (Lusafrica, 1996)
Lush -- perhaps overly lush -- pop music by one of the devotees of Cape Verde's superstar vocalist, Cesaria Evora. I picked this up because I loved the one song included on the SOUL OF CAPE VERDE collection (see below); as it turned out that is the best track on here, and the rest of the album is, perhaps, a notch or two below that. At the time, I really got into this record, but revisting it a decade or so later, I find it fairly flat and disappointing. The style is dreamy and suave, but the execution is drippy and a bit awkward.

Maria Alice "Lagrima E Suplica" (Zona Msica, 2002)

Mayra Andrade "Navega" (RCA Victor, 2007)

Terezinha Araujo "Nos Riqueza" (L'Empreinte Digitale, 2005)

Bana "Chante La Magie Du Cap-Vert" (Melodie, 1994)

Bana "Gira Sol" (Iris Musique, 1995)

Bana "Fado" (Movieplay, 2000)

Batucadeiras De Funana "Nhordes Sabi Tudo"

Batucadeiras De Rincon "Cap-Vert: Batuco De l'Ile De Santiago" (Inedit/MCM, 2004)
A very different kind of Cape Verdean music here... Instead of the languid, melodic mornas that made Cesaria Evora a star, this album highlights the starker batuco ("drumming") style practiced by the women of Rincon village on the island of Santiago. It's much like the sambas de roda (circle sambas) of Bahia, Brazil -- plain, informal, street-corner percussion with a circle of women singing a call-and-response chant with one of them leading the group. The batuco singers often make their songs up on the spot, commenting on daily comings and goings, feckless husbands, bad weather, etc. In fact, one of the songs on this disc is a ditty made up about the recording of the album, making reference in the lyrics to the folklorist who set the sessions up... This music is probably too raw for most casual world-music fans, but for the right listeners, I'm sure it is deeply fascinating.

Bau "Top D'Coroa" (Lusafrica, 1994)

Bau "Jailza" (Lusafrica, 1995)

Bau "Inspiracao" (Lusafrica/Tinder, 2000)
Rufino Almeida (aka Bau) is Cesaria Evora's guitar player, the architect of many of the best-known melodic flourishes in the Cape Verdean canon. Here, on an all-instrumental album, he follows in the pattern set by singer Fantcha, hedging his bets by alternating stately, gorgeous, fado-based numbers with bouncier, Gipsy Kings-style upbeat tracks. As a result, the first half of this album is a little schitzophrenic -- just as you start to settle into the calm, reflective groove of the slower ballads, along comes a slightly jarring, perky pop tune. For the second half of the album, though, we're treated to a series of gorgeous, relaxing mornas -- pure, simple and sweet. Well worth checking out.

Bau "Blimundo" (Lusafrica, 2001)

Bau "Cape Verdean Melancholy" (Evolver, 2003)

Bau "Silencio" (Lusafrica, 2004)

Bau "Ilha Azul" (Lusafrica, 2006)

Cabo Verde Show "Caminho De Esperanca" (Melodie, 1979)

The Cabo Verde Show "Santa Catarina" (1996)

Cabo Verde Show "Nos Amor" (1998)

Cabo Verde Show "2008" (Lusafrica, 2008)

Teofilo Chantre "Terra & Cretcheu" (Lusafrica, 1993)

Teofilo Chantre "Di Alma" (Lusafrica, 1997)

Teofilo Chantre "Rodatempo" (Lusafrica, 2000)

Teofilo Chantre "Live" (Lusafrica, 2002)

Teofilo Chantre "Azulando" (Lusafrica, 2004)

Teofilo Chantre "The Best" (Seoul, 2008)

CV Boys Band "Un So Korasaun" (DjobiNow, 2005)

Nando Da Cruz "Sheila" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Nando Da Cruz "Soraia" (1997)

Martinho Da Vila "Lusofonia" (Columbia, 2000)
As the millennium unfolds, Brazilian samba superstar Martinho Da Vila explores the positive side of European colonial expansion with a pleasant, not-too-glitzy outing that celebrates the Lusophone dance music of Cape Verde, Mozambique, Brazil and provinces far and wide... This has a hefty dose of West African highlife and Caribbean soca mixed in with Da Vila's standard samba sound, as well as lotsa guest musicians that I've never heard of (one assumes they are from Portugal, Guinea-Bissau and the other countries involved here). Cool concept, and one of Da Vila's nicest recent records. If you don't listen too closely, the glossier touches of pop production probably won't get in the way too much.

Maria De Barros "Nha Mundo/My World" (Narada, 2003)

Maria De Barros "Danca Ma Mi/Dance With Me" (Narada, 2005)

Armando De Pina "Alma Cabo-Verdiana" (Brazuca, 2005)

Jovino Dos Santos "Mornas Et Coladeras Du Cap Vert" (Playasound, 1980/1994)
In a sense, it's unfortunate that we've recently been exposed to so many incredible new recordings from Cape Verde. In fact, we may be a bit spoiled. How else to explain how a sweet album like this could wind up sounding a little rinky-dink in comparison to the lusher, more heavily-layered albums by Cesaria Evora and her pals? Still, this more modest, more acoustic set of mornas from the early '80s has its charm; of special interest may be the soft-edged blending-in of West African highlife/juju melodies on one track ("Felicidade D'Povo"). A pleasant, though perhaps marginal, set... worth checking out if you've liked the other, bigger bands.

Cesaria Evora - see artist profile

Fantcha "Criolinha" (Tinder, 1998)
Again, the influence of Cesaria Evora is strongly felt here on her protege's work. This collection is a little vexing: it alternates song by song between muscular, sensual Cape Verdean pop, and fairly icky, drippy, quiet-stormy material. The half which is good is quite lovely, but the in-between tracks are a bit of a turnoff.

Fantcha "Viva Mindelo" (Lusafrica, 1998)

Ferro Gaita "Rei Di Funana" (Lusafrica, 1998)

Ana Firmino "Amor E Tao Sabe" (EMI, 2000)

Manu Lima & Boy Ge Mendes "Di Oro" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Ildo Lobo "Nos Morna" (Lusafrica, 1997)

Ildo Lobo "Intelectual" (Lusafrica, 2001)

Ildo Lobo "Incondicional" (Lusafrica, 2005)

Lura "Di Korpu Ku Alma" (Lusafrica/Escondida, 2005)
The music of Cape Verde as sung by a younger artist who moves away from the forlorn, nostalgic reflectiveness of the popular morna genre into a brighter, poppier style. Lura has little of the gravity or rich emotional depth of her patron, Cesaria Evora, opting instead for a lighter touch, which may come as a breath of fresh air for some fans of Cape Verdean music, but may leave others feeling a bit letdown. Personally, I wasn't really wowed by this... I didn't care much for Lura's voice, which seems a bit thin to me, or for the musical arrangements and safe, slick tone of the production... But I'm sure many world music fans will find this quite nice; there are some pretty, lyrical passages, particularly later in the disc; it just didn't touch me. This is actually a reissue of an album that came out in 2004, though this time around a second DVD disc of video material from a live concert has been added... A classy package, overall.

Lura "M'bem Di Fora" (Four Quarters, 2006)

Lura "Eclipse" (Four Quarters, 2009)
(Produced by Jose Da Silva)

Another lovely, mellow, complex offering from Cabo Verde. Lura's voice is rich and deep, and the pace on this album is contemplative, deliberate and elegant. She avoids the drama and bombast of the Cape Verdean diva Cesaria Evora, and explores pop pathways that are more in line with a wider African and world-pop framework, producing her best album yet in a promising global career. The beauty of it is how none of it seems forced or precious; this is a nice, low-key album, and stands up to repeated auditions. Worth checking out!

Boy Ge Mendes "Grito De Bo Fidje" (EMI, 1989)

Boy Ge Mendes & Manu Lima "Di Oro" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Boy Ge Mendes "Lagoa" (Lusafrica/Tinder, 1997)
A fluid, sensuous treat, with a heavier-than-usual dose of Latin American rhythms on many tracks. This Senegalese Cape Verdean has a beautiful voice, and a sense of balladic grace that can blow your mind. Although there are some tracks towards the end of the album that are too pop-fusion-y for my tastes, on the whole this record is flat-out gorgeous. Highly recommended.

Boy Ge Mendes "Noite De Morabeza" (Lusafrica, 1998)

Boy Ge Mendes "Dona Kinjela" (2008)

Mendes Brothers "Bandera - Musica De Cape Verde" (MB Records, 1995)

Mendes Brothers "Para Angola Com Um Xi Coracao" (Vidisco, 1997)
Joao and Ramiro Mendes are a pair of expatriate Cape Verdeans who lead a band which records mainly abroad... Their style mixes Cape Verde style pop with West African highlife, Latin American salsa and a hefty dose of Caribbean soca. Of these three albums, Para Angola Com Um XI is the most likely to satisfy fans familiar with typical Cape Verdean musicians such as Cesaria Evora; it's sleek, yet soulful and has plenty of the sexy cabaret-tinged swing and sway of the morna. The other two albums both go a little overboard, with manic or muscular world beat overproduction; it's not my style of pop, and I would be less likely to recommend them. Para Angola is pretty sweet, though. (Note: MB Records has several other albums in print, as well as a bunch of info on Cape Verdean music available on its website...)

Mendes Brothers "Satelite Zamby" (MB Records, 1999)

Luis Morais "Boas Festas" (Lusafrica, 2004)
Delicious Cape Verdean instrumental tunes, featuring clarinetist Luis Morais, who was one of the highlights of the popular Soul Of Cape Verde collection listed below. Although most tracks have the swishing, swaying, samba-like backbeat of many Cape Verde songs, there's also a strong similarity to Brazilian choro music, particularly on faster tracks such as "Ilidio" and "Miudinho," which powerfully echo the work of the legendary Pixinguinha. It's all rich and rewarding, and a great showcase for Morais' inventive, classy virtuosity. A great selection of early work from 1967, evocative and alluring in that special Cape Verdean way.

Luis Morais "Novidade De Mindelo" (Lusafrica, 2006)
Modern recordings that show Morais as sweet, supple and inventive as ever. Definitely worth checking out.

Ntoni Denti D'Oro "Cap Vert: Batuque Et Finacon" (Ocora, 1998)

Tito Paris "Fidjo Maguado" (1987)

Tito Paris "Danca Ma Mi Criola" (1994)

Tito Paris "Graca De Tchega" (1996)

Tito Paris "Ao Vivo No B. Leza" (Lusafrica, 1998)

Tito Paris "Ao Vivo" (1999)

Tito Paris "Guilhermina" (Universal, 2002)

Tito Paris "Acustico" (Four Quarters, 2005)

Tito Paris "Live At Aula Magna" (MB Records, 2005)

Nha Mita Pereira "Batuque Et Finacon" (Ocora, 2001)

Putchota "Raiz Di Djarfogo: Traditions Of Fogo Island" (Ocora, 2000)

Katchupa Rica "Volume One" (Lusafrica, 1998)

Simentera "Raiz" (Melodie, 1996)

Simentera "Cabo Verde En Serenata" (Piranha, 2000)

Norberto Tavares "Jordana Di Babiu" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Sara Tavares "Chamar A Musica" (BMG, 1994)

Sara Tavares "Mi Ma Bo" (BMG, 2003)

Sara Tavares "Balance" (Times Square, 2005)
A pretty-sounding and melodically oriented album, introducing Sara Tavares, one of the new generation of artists emerging from the Cape Verde Islands, off the Portuguese coast. Tavares, who grew up in Lisbon, plays with numerous African artists, but the overall feel of the disc is closest to Portuguese fados and Cape Verdean mornas, -- primarily acoustic and ballad-oriented. Tavares -- who also plays several instruments and backs herself alone on a few tunes -- breaks free from the normally mournful sounds of these two styles, playing with an exuberance and freedom that the nostalgic, downcast mornas often lack. I didn't find myself very moved or transfixed by these songs, but they do sound nice and the more I listened, the sweeter it became. Definitely worth checking out -- folks looking for something easy and elegant will enjoy this disc a lot.

Sara Tavares "Alive In Lisboa!" (Times Square, 2008)

Sara Tavares "Xinti" (Four Quarters, 2009)
(Produced by Sara Tavares & Ani Fonseca)

Very mellow, very pretty, very gentle acoustic world-pop from this Lisbon-based Portuguese singer. This is a little too gooey and sweet for my tastes, a little too airy, but I imagine many world music fans, folks looking for mellow, gentle, pretty music, would be delighted to hear it. Tavares herself is said to have characterized her music as a kind of lullaby, and I think that's a pretty apt description... If that's what you're looking for, you won't be disappointed.

Tcheka "Argui" (Lusafrica, 2006)
Fairly slick, fairly bland soul-pop, sung in Cape Verdean Portuguese. Although later Tcheka would get spacier and jazzier, this is fairly straightforward pop material, not particularly challenging or innovative, though very mellow and unintrusive. It's a little too gooey for me, but I've certainly heard worse.

Tcheka "Nu Monda" (4 Quarters/Lusafrica, 2006)

Tcheka "Lonji" (Times Square/Lusafrica, 2008)
(Produced by Lenine)

Lush, pretty-sounding acoustic music from the Cape Verde islands, off the coast of West Africa, featuring the vocals and guitar work of Manual Lopes Andrade, otherwise known as Tcheka... This is super-mellow stuff, with some of the same amorphous, meandering, jazzy spaciness as Brazilian pop star Milton Nascimento. This album sounds unlike much Cape Verdean music, forgoing the overt romanticism of their national music, the ballad-like morna, for a more experimental, meditative sound. Yet the eclecticism of Cape Verde is there as well, dipping into African and European wellsprings, often with beguiling results. For example, the restless accordion work of Toninho Ferragutti, on "Tuti Santiagu," begins as an echo of French musette, and shifts abruptly into a wild, improvisational take on Argentine tango... At first blush, this disc may seem too gooey for some listeners -- Brazilian producer Lenine leaves his own rock'n'roll inclinations behind and limits himself to subtle, electronica-ish textural touches -- but for folks who enjoy the super-mellow end of the spectrum, this album offers unexpected musical twists while remaining consistently soft and unobtrusive, as well as lyrical and emotive. Fans of Milton Nascimento and fellow Brazilian Djavan may find this particularly alluring.

Terrero "Xubenga: Batuque De Santiago" (Lusafrica, 2001)
The choral tradition of Cape Verdean batuque gussied up a bit for the 21st Century, with sleeker production (compared to the old field recordings) and an occasional light electronic accompaniment. If you like the sound of children singing in chorus, this could be lovely -- I found it a bit stark, and also not as captivating or otherworldly as some of the rawer old recordings. Recommended tracks include "Tempu lachidu" and "Festa Gaita"

Lena Timas "Dona Kinjela" (Zemanu, 2008)

Os Tubaroes "Porton D'nos Ilha" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Tututa & Taninho "Cap-Vert: Cabo-Verde Islands" (Air Mail, 2006)

Travadinha "Le Violon Du Cap Vert (The Violin Of Cape Verde)" (Buda Musique, 2006)

Voz de Cabo Verde "Voz Com Paz E Amor" (Lusafrica, 2005)

Val Xalino "Cap-Vert: Rainha De Beleza" (Playasound, 2006)


Various Artists "AFROPEA 3: TELLING STORIES TO THE SEA" (Luaka Bop, 1995)
Although David Byrne's world music label was slightly ahead of the curve with this solid set of Lusophone pop, it has since been superceded by the recent adulation and wide exposure of artists such as Cesaria Evora and Angola's Bonga. Still, if you can find it, it's well worth checking out. Mostly oriented towards modern dance music, this features artists from Cape Verde, Angola, and Sao Tome, and has a strong Afro-Beat bias. (The more blues-oriented music of Mozambique, for example, is not included.) Among the more striking tracks are the pleasant high-life styles of Africa Negra and the slightly askew, warped-sounding production on Jacinta Sanches' "Vizinha Ka Bale."

Various Artists "CABO VERDE: ILHAS DO BARLAVENTO (MUSIC FROM SAO NICOLAU)" (Popular African Music, 2001)

Various Artists "CAPE VERDE" (Arc Music, 2002)

Various Artists "CAP-VERT ANTHOLOGIE: 1959-1992" (Buda Musique, 1995)

Various Artists "LE CAP-VERT DU AUJOUR D'HUI (CAPE VERDE TODAY)" (Last Call Records, 1998)


Various Artists "FUNANA DANCE, v.1: CAP-VERT" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Various Artists "FUNANA DANCE, v.2: BULIMUNDO" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Various Artists "FUNANA DANCE, v.3: DJAM BRANCA DJA" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Various Artists "LES PLUS BELLES MORNAS DU CAP-VERT" (Lusafrica, 1996)

Various Artists "MUSIC FROM CAPE VERDE" (Caprice, 1994)

Various Artists "ONE WORLD: THE LUSAFRICA SAMPLER" (Lusafrica, 2001)

Various Artists "POPULAR MUSIC FROM CAPE VERDE" (Sounds Of The World, 1998)

Various Artists "PORTUGUESE STRING MUSIC" (Heritage, 1989)
Some of the earliest, rarest recordings of Portuguese-language music ever collected in one place. Similar territory to Heritage's fado collections, but with other styles such as polkas, tangos and boleros-- not just the fado. Also, the musicians include Cape Verdean expatriates and Brazilians as well as proper Portuguese artists -- a few of the Brazilian recordings even date back as far as 1908(!) Really nice, and definitely recommended!

Tracing the crosscurrents of Lusophone culture, this collection touches on music from Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and contemporary Portugal, with artists such as Ze Manel, Jovino Dos Santos, Dulce Pontes and the Mendes Brothers. The opening tracks are a bit florid for my tastes, but the simpler acoustic numbers, featuring folks like Ruy Mingas, Maneas Costa and Agusto Cegos, are quite lovely. A good introductory overview, with several melodic gems, although there are also a few too-pop tunes.

Various Artists "PUTUMAYO PRESENTS: CAPE VERDE" (Putumayo, 1999)
Putumayo scores a homer with this compact, compelling compilation. While not as elegant and ethereal as the Tinder Records collection listed above, this disc has more than its fair share of beauty. Plus, it includes several female singers not commonly heard elsewhere. The material is of fairly recent vintage (1996-1999), and represents some of the finest examples of the new musical renaissance on the islands. Well worth checking out.

Various Artists "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO CAPE VERDE" (Rough Guides, 2001)

It is interesting to find out that, along with the Portuguese enclaves on New England, that there's a healthy Cape Verdean immigrant community on the East Coast. Still, on these live recordings, taken from a cultural heritage show in 1996, they don't seem to have the same creative fervor as their Cape Verdean homies -- or a professional music industry to spur them on. Charming as the folkloric performances are, they aren't really top-notch, or at least not the same sort of sleek studio work thet one one thinks of in connection to this style of music. One intriguing sidelight, though, is the heavy influence of American-style Tin Pan Alley pop on several of these tracks. Not super-great, but an easy disc to track down if you're on a Cape Verde jag.

Various Artists "THE SOUL OF CAPE VERDE" (Lusafrica/Tinder Production, 1996)
A gorgeous collection of deeply lush, romantic material from Cape Verde. This is, flat out, one of my favorite "world music" albums ever. If you don't have it already, you should correct that problem as soon as possible. The basic form here is the morna, a languid, florid ballad style which is closely related to the Portuguese fado. This album includes big name artists such as Cesaria Evora (Cape Verde's first big international star), and her protege, Maria Alice. More precious still, though, is the older material from the mid-1960s, which I imagine is pretty hard to come by. (Note to music labels: an album of stuff by Luis Morais, or even just more music in this general vein, would be wonderful wonderful wonderful). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Various Artists "THE SPIRIT OF CAPE VERDE" (Lusafrica/Tinder Production, 1998)
A stunning follow-up to the first Tinder collection, this disc has a much more contemporary focus (a couple of '60s tracks at the end, but otherwise, this is all from the 1990s). All the usual suspects are on here: Cesaria, Fantcha, Boy de Mendes... But several tracks have head-turning peculiarities, odd sonic turns and unexpected tones that set them apart from the standard, glorious Cape Verdean fare. If the SOUL album got you hooked, this will deepen your interest immensely.

Various Artists "WORLD BEAT, v.6: CAP VERT/CABO VERDE" (Celluloid, 1997)


  • One of the best sites on the internet, Cabo features profiles of several musicians, as well as extensive historical, geographical and culinary information on the islands... Well worth checking out!

  • The Cape Verde Homepage includes a sizeable music page, with plenty of artist-related links, as well as plenty of other historical and political info. Definitely worth checking out.

  • Erols has a huge resources page for all things Cape Verdean... more than I can encapsulate here!

  • Likewise, CV Music World has plenty of album reviews and links to artist pages, as well as a nice essay on music from the Islands.

  • MB Records, home of the Mendes Brothers, also features albums by artists such as Bana and the Kafala Brothers.

Other Lusophone music
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