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.