popular

The Funána Revolt in 1990s Cabo Verde

In 1997, an "earthquake shook [Cabo Verde]," as a national newspaper wrote, when a group of youths calling themselves Ferro Gaita "dared to make a disc based on the gaita, ferrinho and bass guitar."

Vik Sohonie, founder of Ostinato Records, tells us the background on his latest compilation release, Pour Me A Grog: The Funána Revolt in 1990s Cabo Verde.

In the 1950s, a few young men, known as Badius, embarked on a nearly 2,500-mile (4000 km) journey from the northern rural interior of Cabo Verde's Santiago Island to the island of São Tomé off the Atlantic coast of central Africa. Incredibly, they made the arduous journey not to earn a better living or send money back home—but to simply buy an accordion, locally known as a gaita. They would work years in harsh conditions to earn enough to buy the instrument and a few more years to buy a ticket back to Santiago.

Returning home, they slowly formed an elite class of self-taught gaita players who achieved a status similar to the griots of West Africa: venerated: wise elderly men archiving Badiu history in their diatonic button accordions. The gaita became the maximum expression of Badiu identity, one defined over centuries by a persistent culture of revolt and rebellion against domination and injustice. In a land lacking electricity, the acoustic instrument is king.


Ferro Gaita. Image courtesy of Vik Sohonie/Ostinato Records.

The gaita masters marriage to a hard-won instrument gave birth to raw Funaná music, undoubtedly a trans-Atlantic sibling of Colombian Cumbia. Hypnotic notes on aged accordions, tuned and flavored in ways found nowhere but Santiago, became infused with inviting baselines, raucous rhythms, blade-on-iron percussion and the bubbling lyricism and lament of the island's finest ambassadors, their lyrics spoke of the trials of daily scarcity and playfully crafted whole metaphors within songs.

Their music was outlawed under colonial rule, with strict curfews monitored by the ever watchful eye of Portugal's secret police to prevent gatherings since Funaná was dance music meant for large crowds, centered on one of the many star gaiteiros. Yet, naturally defiant, Badiu Funaná continued unfazed at the risk of arrest, detention, or worse.

Nha Boi - YouTube www.youtube.com

Funaná remained an isolated style, largely an affair for Badiu ears only. But in 1991, Cabo Verde had its first democratic election. Elections are tricky business anywhere, let alone a state divided into several islands, each needing a tailored approach. Political parties found a novel solution, perhaps even a model, to successfully get their campaign messages out to large audiences with ears wide open: music festivals. Until today, Cabo Verde plays host to dozens of festivals a year, some sponsored by the government.

The music of the proud African interior became the soundtrack of choice at campaign rallies and music festivals. It drew large crowds, engaged the youth, kept people content, and undoubtedly won votes, setting the stage for traditional Funaná's entry into the mainstream. But professional production and recording remained elusive.

Younger artists empowered by the politically-backed proliferation of Funaná in the early '90s began traveling inland to learn the trade secrets from the gaita griots, taking up the once maligned artform to counter what they saw as global pop sounds diluting Cabo Verdean output and preventing genuine local music from competing on the airwaves.


Tchota Suari (bottom) & Chando Graciosa. Image courtesy of Vik Sohonie/Ostinato Records.

Another revolt was afoot, and in 1997, an "earthquake shook the country," a Cabo Verdean newspaper wrote, when a group of youths, calling themselves Ferro Gaita, "dared to make a disc based on the gaita, ferrinho and bass guitar." That best-selling first album—40,000 copies in a country of just 400,000—changed the entire trajectory of the country's music.

Ferro Gaita's success caught the attention of affluent producers based in Cabo Verde's large European diaspora, namely Rotterdam. Widespread sentiment was to honor the old gaita masters from the small villages of Santiago by commercially publishing their work for the very first time, giving what was once hidden the bigger stage it deserved.

This compilation curates eight tracks from a short period in the late '90s when cherished pioneers, who risked everything to give their proud culture a sound, were finally put in recording studios; an album in itself a revolt in favor of the music of the most marginalized and once deliberately silenced.

Pour yourself a grog, the Cabo Verdean moonshine distilled from sugarcane crushed by bulls, imbibe responsibly, listen carefully, and dance recklessly.

Interview
Photo: OJOZ. Courtesy of Mayra Andrade.

Mayra Andrade Is Bringing Cape Verdean Music Forward

We talk to the singer about her latest album, Manga, which offers a fresh pop take on Cape Verdean sounds.

Mayra Andrade is something of a musical mermaid. Now living in Lisbon, the Cape Verdean pop singer firmly plants one half of herself in her mother island while the other swims into sounds from beyond. Her fifth and most recent album, Manga, released in February, is a fresh take on old styles.

Andrade has always lovingly trespassed the stodgy borders of traditional Cape Verdean music. Manga takes it further, hitting up the ranks of West African pop and Lisbon's Afro-Portuguese dance music for inspiration. It's gorgeous and minimal, sing-able and danceable for any body. Manga also reminds Cape Verde of something that it – and the wider world—sometimes forgets: that it's an African country interwoven with its neighbors.

Cape Verde's traditional music is global, but its pop music rarely reaches outside the Lusophone world. Mayra Andrade, sharpening her country's cutting edge, should be counted as one of the best pop artists in West Africa, not just Cape Verde. As she says, her latest album Manga is speaking to her fans like nothing else in her 19-year career. The recent video for her song "Pull Up," shot in Paris and Dakar, features dance crews whose brazen moves mirror the message: "Let me be free to be what I really am."

Andrade spoke with OkayAfrica at the Atlantic Music Expo in Praia, Cape Verde, the day before her first homecoming concert for Manga.

Keep reading...
Op-Ed

100 Women Letter From the Editor

OkayAfrica's Editor in Chief Rachel Hislop tells us what 100 Women 2019 means to her.

Every time I reflect on my career in journalism, a memory close enough to touch reappears. The feel of the smooth glossy paper under my index finger while I sat, legs folded, on the iron-burned carpet in the Brooklyn bedroom I shared with my sister is still palpable. I would run my finger down the magazine mastheads, reading every name and corresponding title as I tried to imagine what their jobs entailed. This was long before we had access to content in a digital space. There wasn't a quick place for me to explore the world that existed within the binds of a magazine, so I assumed this space was out of reach.

Keep reading...
popular
Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...
popular

University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.