Music Review: Classics from the Coast of Africa

CABO VERDE INSTRUMENTAL by various artists (Lusafrica)
by Keith Goetzman
July-August 2010
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The African island nation of Cape Verde has made it onto the world-music map with its deliciously melancholy music, morna, thanks to the genre’s “barefoot diva,” Cesaria Evora. But strip away her vocals—or any other vocals, for that matter—and the musical base underneath still shimmers with beauty. Cabo Verde Instrumental showcases morna and other homegrown music styles, reaching back to the late 1960s, and many of these exquisitely melodious songs have the ring of classics. This collection could sit on the shelf between Buena Vista Social Club and Duke Ellington and fit right in.

The album assumes that you’ve come to the islands to stay awhile, so it starts off with a 15-minute medley by Humbertona and Toy that sets the scene, conjuring salt breezes, swaying palms, and water disappearing into the horizon. Pianist Chico Serra’s “Fidjo Maguado” somehow combines a Chopinesque stateliness with a jaunty feel; “Passagem” by the Mindel Band takes cues from contemporary jazz; and several numbers by the string wizard known simply as Bau are timeless expressions of passion-packed virtuosity.

There’s a bittersweetness to many of the tunes—especially the morna, of course—but the overall impression is one of barely contained joy.

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