Culture - Music

After the language, music is the richest and most universal manifestation of the culture of Cape Verde. The people of Cape Verde have founded a new nation from dozens of original cultures, and sculpted original models for musical culture, in which joy and sorrow, meetings and separations, land and sea, hunger and abundance, solitude and celebration, nostalgic longing, love, life and death are transformed and crafted into mournful songs, soulful murmurs, or melodies of hope, shouts of joy, and even music for celebrations.

In this way various musical forms with several degrees of complexity were generated, such as the cantigas da monda (songs including the guarda-pardal, guarda-corvo and guarda galinha-mato), which are traditionally sung by children on the agricultural islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, S. Nicolau and Brava). A genre developed in Brava, known as bombena, which was sung in chorus during agricultural work, in a way that emulated the progress of the tasks. In Santo Antão, where the trapiche (small sugar cane mill) was generally used, the toadas de aboio (herding songs) came about, sung to encourage the cattle to move faster through the land. Songs were also sung on the sea, and the cantigas marítimas (sea songs) provided a particularly clear portrait of the physionomy of the Cabo Verdean and his strong link to the sea. The cantigas de ninar (lullabies) are particularly tender, generally sung by the grandparents, who stayed at home looking after the grandchildren while their parents worked. The cantigas de roda (circle songs) are still cited as songs that cheered the children during breaks at school, with their accompanying gesture patterns. The lenga-lengas and ladaínhas (Santo Antão), the religious rezas (prayers) (Santiago), and the divinas (“divine” songs sung with polyphony in S. Nicolau) come from Catholic worship, but they have generally spread out from the churches in corrupted Latin.

It is also worth referring to the pastoral songs, sung at the turn of the year (S. Silvester) and at Epiphany (start of January), which have their origin in the traditional janeiras and reizadas from Portugal.

There are also references to other genres that are not so well defined, such as the rill or the maxixe (variant of the landum), both in Boa Vista, which is certainly a community of noted musical creativity.

Curiously enough, some stories (storia storia) such as Blimunde, Pastorinho de Cabra (the little goat shepherd) or Nana Tiguera are sung using the pentatonic scale, typically used in the far east.

The festas de romaria (pilgrimage festivities) are of great significance on many islands, such as Santo Antão, Fogo or Boa Vista. They are influenced by the festivals of the popular saints in Portugal, but in Cape Verde they have acquired their own manifestations, melodies and rhythms, using drums and beating the edges of mortars, directed by an elderly woman, the coladera, who leads a chorus of women singing a striking and monotonous melody, like a lament, which evokes people and scenes from real life. One of these is the colá-Son-Djon, which is danced by the light of bonfires at the festival of St. John in June. It is the ultimate exponent, with its origin in the umbigadas or cheganças, which were then forbidden in Portugal.

Dances of European origin still survive in Cape Verde in their original version (there were also transformations described below), such as the waltz, the mazurka and the contra-dança (country dance, origined from England).

Finally it is worth referring to funeral music, which has a deep tradition in Cape Verdean society. On one hand they use it to recall the loved ones who are leaving this world, and on the other to somehow exorcise the death and sadness which it brings to those who remain. The melodic crafting of the carpideiras, who regularly interrupt the long and devoted wakes in Cape Verde, brings a chill in the midst of the reverent silence that arises.

After the language, music is the richest and most universal manifestation of the culture of Cape Verde. The people of Cape Verde have founded a new nation from dozens of original cultures, and sculpted original models for musical culture, in which joy and sorrow, meetings and separations, land and sea, hunger and abundance, solitude and celebration, nostalgic longing, love, life and death are transformed and crafted into mournful songs, soulful murmurs, or melodies of hope, shouts of joy, and even music for celebrations.

In this way various musical forms with several degrees of complexity were generated, such as the cantigas da monda (songs including the guarda-pardal, guarda-corvo and guarda galinha-mato), which are traditionally sung by children on the agricultural islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, S. Nicolau and Brava). A genre developed in Brava, known as bombena, which was sung in chorus during agricultural work, in a way that emulated the progress of the tasks. In Santo Antão, where the trapiche (small sugar cane mill) was generally used, the toadas de aboio (herding songs) came about, sung to encourage the cattle to move faster through the land. Songs were also sung on the sea, and the cantigas marítimas (sea songs) provided a particularly clear portrait of the physionomy of the Cabo Verdean and his strong link to the sea. The cantigas de ninar (lullabies) are particularly tender, generally sung by the grandparents, who stayed at home looking after the grandchildren while their parents worked. The cantigas de roda (circle songs) are still cited as songs that cheered the children during breaks at school, with their accompanying gesture patterns. The lenga-lengas and ladaínhas (Santo Antão), the religious rezas (prayers) (Santiago), and the divinas (“divine” songs sung with polyphony in S. Nicolau) come from Catholic worship, but they have generally spread out from the churches in corrupted Latin.

It is also worth referring to the pastoral songs, sung at the turn of the year (S. Silvester) and at Epiphany (start of January), which have their origin in the traditional janeiras and reizadas from Portugal.

There are also references to other genres that are not so well defined, such as the rill or the maxixe (variant of the landum), both in Boa Vista, which is certainly a community of noted musical creativity.

Curiously enough, some stories (storia storia) such as Blimunde, Pastorinho de Cabra (the little goat shepherd) or Nana Tiguera are sung using the pentatonic scale, typically used in the far east.

The festas de romaria (pilgrimage festivities) are of great significance on many islands, such as Santo Antão, Fogo or Boa Vista. They are influenced by the festivals of the popular saints in Portugal, but in Cape Verde they have acquired their own manifestations, melodies and rhythms, using drums and beating the edges of mortars, directed by an elderly woman, the coladera, who leads a chorus of women singing a striking and monotonous melody, like a lament, which evokes people and scenes from real life. One of these is the colá-Son-Djon, which is danced by the light of bonfires at the festival of St. John in June. It is the ultimate exponent, with its origin in the umbigadas or cheganças, which were then forbidden in Portugal.

Dances of European origin still survive in Cape Verde in their original version (there were also transformations described below), such as the waltz, the mazurka and the contra-dança (country dance, origined from England).

Finally it is worth referring to funeral music, which has a deep tradition in Cape Verdean society. On one hand they use it to recall the loved ones who are leaving this world, and on the other to somehow exorcise the death and sadness which it brings to those who remain. The melodic crafting of the carpideiras, who regularly interrupt the long and devoted wakes in Cape Verde, brings a chill in the midst of the reverent silence that arises.

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