If we know anything of Cape Verdean music, it is largely due to the efforts of one man, Jose DaSilva, founder of the Lusafrica label, and producer of the late great Cesaria Evora.
Since that diva’s death, there have been many singers touted as having “inherited the mantle of Cesaria Evora.” What attracted me to the PR announcing Neuza’s set at was that this phrase was nowhere in sight, and instead stressed her roots in the island of Fogo, and her mastery of its specific musical repertoire. When I sat down with Mr. DaSilva, he made it quite clear that his interest, beyond her being an excellent singer, was this repertoire.
I expected a somewhat bare bones acoustic presentation from this, but as soon as I walked into sound check, I heard a fully electrified band warming up. The signature cavaquino (Portuguese ukulele) was there, but so was a synthesizer and a full kit. So the house filled up, the band took their places and Neuza started to sing.
First up: she’s a natural. A wonderful singer. She may have sung the first song, “Cuidado Na Bu Bida” (presented here) in a gently sweet voice, but I can assure you, she was just warming up and further down the road, she employed a steely high chest tone. And this song is a coladeira, a typical Cape Verdean dance probably descended from morna, the most well known song form from the islands, and not one of the songs specific to Fogo. But if, as I suspect you are not an expert on Cape Verdean music, dear reader, just give a listen to this lilting and lovely song which philosophizes about how to deal with the vicissitudes of life. And maybe dance a bit.
The house was packed with Cape Verdeans, who knew almost every song and soon dance partners were found, and all were stepping and subtly swaying to an island rhythm. It was an early set beginning at 7:30, and SOB’s usually gets its groove on around midnight, but it was obvious that this audience would have been there for the whole night, if Neuza had continued to sing.
For more about Neuza, visit: lusafrica.com/4_1.cfm?p=412-neuza
For more about Lusafrica, visit: lusafrica.com/1.cfm?p=51-lusafrica-world-music-label-cap-verde-africa-latine-america-caraibes
“Will you LOOK at the size of that Bass Lyra!!”
–Jeff Greene, delegate to WOMEX, and president of Evergreene Music, upon seeing the setup on the stage for the Stelios Petrakis Quartet.
First off, all the instruments you see being played in this video were made by Mr Petrakis, the man playing the Cretan Lyra. He is a luthier as well as a musician, and has studied to be both, with the best. He was raised in Crete, and started his musical studies at the age of 7, and was taught by Ross Daly, and then by Eleni Drettaki, who he describes as “heroic.”
At any rate, here is a wonderful performance of original music from Crete, based on traditional forms. The moods range from the somber to the intoxicating, and as far as I am concerned it is all simply grand. I am no expert on the music of Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands, so I simply enjoyed the passion and sheer enjoyment that was coming off the stage –along with a formidable amount of technique. Upon writing to Mr. Petrakis, to learn more specifics about the music, I received a warm letter, with plenty of information.
The excerpt I am presenting here is a 3 song suite: “Kavo Sideros” (Stelios Petrakis – Yiannis Petrakis) “Pare me nyhta” (Stelios Petrakis / Mitsos Stavrakakis) and “Syrtos Nikaias” (Patrick Vaillant).
And here are Mr. Petrakis’ explanations:
“Kavo Sideros” is a piece inspired by the music of Sitia and Karpathos, and as Cape Sideros, on the eastern cape of Crete, is between Sitia and Karpathos, I named it for that. The lyrics speak about nature – “I search to find places “on the edge”, where nothing bad has been done by human power. Come to Kavo Sideros and give me your hand, to walk around the neighborhoods of the world.”
“Pare me nyhta” is a typical fast and powerful Cretan Syrto (a dance in 4/4), which in fact is very popular in Crete. The lyrics are in mandinada form – traditionally 15 syllables in a couple of lines, concluding in a rhyme) and is a love poem. “I want the night to take me away, in order to escape from love which has conquered me again…”
“Syrtos Nikaias” is a composition from the French mandolinist Patrick Vaillant, who stayed in Crete 20 years ago and had lessons at that time from the violin player Kostas Papadakis – Naftis. I liked this piece from the first moment I played it 14 years ago, on a trio we had with myself, Patrick and Bijan Chemirani. It is a Syrto in form, but it is very “fresh”, bringing new ideas and style; no traditional Cretan composer would have composed like that.
As to that bass Lyra, which Mr. Petrakis created and calls a Cretan Cello, it is the only one of its kind. (so far)
For more information about Mr. Petrakis visit: steliospetrakis.com/?lang=en