various artists,
Cape Verde
(Putumayo, 1999)

Putumayo World Music has put together a fairly good collection of music in Cape Verde. While some of the songs are merely good, there are some amazing songs here also. One would also be well advised to at least read the first part of the insert, which contains a lot of interesting and useful information. The same can be said of the biographical information on the singers and the songs that were chosen.

The CD starts off with "Chico Malandro" by Ana Firmino with Tito Paris and, while the music is fine, it has a light pop flavour to it which spoils the overall feel. There is a similar style to "Boy Iêtu" by Boy Gé Mendes. And while there is a blending of other styles with the pop, the pop feel is too strong for my liking.

Nana Matias then steps up the level of music with "Pays Sol." It is one of those songs that bypasses your brain and wraps itself around you. There is a simple elegance to the song which makes it a joy to hear.

You are then drawn onto the dance floor with the gracefulness of "Nha Fe" by Toefilo Chantre. This is followed by "Cabo Verde Manda Mantenha," a quietly powerful song by Cesaria Evore. The first notes hint at the power of the song and then Evora's singing brings it to its fullness.

Unfortunately the next song takes us back to a form of pop-lite in Bana's "Cabinda a Cunene." Yes, the music is good at the technical level; the song, however, does absolutely nothing for me. Then comes the jazzy, slinky "Sol Na Tchada" by Maria Alice. It glides across the floor and pulls you along with it.

"Injuria" by José "Zeca" Neves is transformed by José's voice -- what would otherwise merely be a good song becomes a passionate piece full of love and longing. The music remains passionate in "Cinderela" by Fantcha. The song successful blends the slower pace of a ballroom dance (it has the feel if not the beat) with the rhythmic strumming of the cavaquinho.

Zeca di nha Reinalda, João Cirilio and Blick Tchutchy teamed together on "Tchon di Massa Pé," which manages to carry the feeling of a group declaring a statement even with its quietness and slower pace.

And then there are the last two songs. First is "Nha cumpadre Faustine" by Dulce Matias, and as with several of the other songs on this CD, it has a gracefulness to its flow as if it were dancing. Nor is the the last song the exception to this tendancy. "Galo Bedjo" by Djurumanu is like listening to a slow tango.

Cape Verde is well worth taking the time to listen to. Most of the songs are wonderful, the only thing that would make it better would be actually knowing what the lyrics are saying. While snippets of the lyrics are provided, none of the songs use English and there is no handy translation available. Even still, just listening to the feel of the songs is enough to let the magic in the best of these carry you along.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

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