Cape Verde to Brooklyn - WMI Series
"Where in the world is Cape Verde?" was my first question. When I heard that their people's native language is a form of Creole, I was even more confused. But upon hearing the music of this unknown place, the pieces began to slowly fit together. I attended the Cape Verde to Brooklyn performance presented by The World Music Institute this past Saturday at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY. The show featured Cape Verdean singer Fantcha, a tall, exotic woman whose beautiful energy, smile (and hair!) graced the stage to share the love for her own country. Her first song, translated as I Love Cape Verde, was a happy-spirited song that clearly conveyed the fondness she has for her homeland, though most of us in the audience could not understand the Portuguese-mixed Creole language that was being sung. This music, a mix of African rhythms with some Portuguese melodies and vice versa, is a plethora of every style of music that you have heard coming from the entire Eastern Atlantic region of the world. You could hear the Mazurka, but with an African twist. There was definitely a forro'-esque beat that didn't quite make the full transition, even samba, salsa, carribbean, all of these sounds that could have been found somewhere else in the world were present, however they had this distinct flavor setting them aside from their original forms. Like a secret ingredient only found in a particular chef's cooking, these styles of music came from everywhere else in the world but had that one flavor consistent in all of the rhythmic dishes. It was delicious! And it all makes sense - The Republic of Cape Verde is a set of 10 islands off the coast of Senegal that was an ex-Portuguese colony for over 500 years: a spot on the globe that was mixed from its birth and continuously received the flavors of the world from the traveling mariners that landed on its shores.
The concert started with a brief lesson in kizomba, a very sensual partner dance originating from the Cape Verde region. The style of dance has an un-even meter and relies on the closeness in proximity of the two dancers; the man holds the woman very close, faces touching, not only so he can lead her effortlessly, but I'm sure also to share that connection with the dancer/lover...it was a joy to watch the demonstration and a treat to quickly learn the basic step of the kizomba (thank you, Theo, for being my dance partner!)
Once we found our seats again, Fantcha and her wonderful band took the stage to bring us on a journey to these desolate yet musically fruitful islands. Fantcha's singing is very particular - a meloncholic voice when singing of her brother's short-lived life (though smiling intermittently throughout each piece) and happier when singing of fonder memories, there is always that quivering abandonment that she uses to tell her stories of her homeland that she left almost 14 years ago. That sound is the longing for her home yet the sense of pride to share her culture with her adoptive New York family.
The World Music Institute will continue its series of music and dance events at Roulette in 2012 - be sure to check out their schedule for upcoming events or go to www.worldmusicinstitute.org for more information.