Last March a news brief regarding a minor stroke suffered by Cape Verdean vocalist, Cesaria Evora appeared on World Music Central. The musician had flown to Australia to perform at WOMADELAIDE and she suffered a stroke prior to the festival performance. Needless to say her performance was cancelled leaving disappointed fans in the wake. This month brings us happier news since the 66-year old Evora releases the recording, nha sentimento on Lusafrica. The press release described the recording, “Cesaria ventures further afield than ever before, twisting Arabic musical traditions into bluesy sinuous compositions from some of Cape Verde’s best songwriters.”
The result sunny Cape Verdean repertoire with Egyptian exoticism produced by longtime friend and collaborator Manuel de Novas (who recently passed away) with songs arranged by Egyptian Fathy Salama. Again—the press release, “Fathy brought Egyptian instruments into his studio in downtown Cairo to add a new texture to the music, largely written by fellow Cape Verdeans Manuel de Novas and Teofilo Chantre…Egypt’s reedy pipes, edgy percussion, lush strings and crystalline sound of the kanun (Arabic zither) feels right at home.”
Yet, Nha sentimento still has the down home comfort of a Cape Verdean classic further enhanced by Evora’s “hot chocolate and brandy” vocals, as described by Salama. Listeners won’t miss out on Evora’s rendition of Cape Verdean mornas (likened to American blues and Portuguese fado), or the accordion and violin laced music of the islands. The bright and punchy Serpentina provides salsa-style horns, Afro-Latin poly-rhythms and topped by Evora’s warm alto vocals. Verde Cabo di Nhas Odjos follows with its lush poly-rhythms, sparkling guitar and swinging violin.
The titular track marries Cape Verde to Egypt and gives off a romantic glow. But the song most familiar to my ears, Esperanca di Mar Azul conjures up images of the waves hitting the sand, as the song’s Portuguese title would imply. And as luck would have it, I have experienced a double dose of this song composed by Tèofilo Chantre since it also appears on newcomer Nancy Vieira’s Lus (released date set for November 2009).
Nancy Vieira, another Cape Verdean diva, but so new to international audiences, that I know little about her. She debuts with Lus in the States and her CD notes describe her as, “The voice of Nancy Vieira has that sort of pristine freshness that goes directly from our ears to our heart—the kind of voice that seems to caress the songs, as she goes on singing sincerely and gracefully.”
True, a virginal essence--a raw-fresh quality drips off of her carefully crafted mezzo-soprano vocals. Her effervescent vocals fall on a spectrum closer to the veteran Evora rather than other contemporaries such as Lura (Time Square Records) and Mayra Andrade (Stern’s Music). Though the guitar arpeggios that sparkle on the songs, recall Lura's music arrangements. Her voice settles comfortably with her repertoire composed by Vadù, Princezito, Tutin d’Giralda, Tèofilo Chantre, Rolando Semedo, Jon Luz and other Cape Verdean composers. Vieiro chips in one of her own compositions, Good Living. And after taking one listen to Lus, living feels good, light and slightly breezy with blue skies as far as the eye can see.