Small Islands, Big Music: Report from the AME at Cabo Verde from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

For 20 years, the World Music Expo (WOMEX) has been the premiere European destination for targeted world music marketing. But realizing that the concept needs to go truly global WOMEX has been teaming up with other organizations world wide, and collaborating on similar events. The Atlantic Music Expo (AME) in Cabo Verde is now up and running and planning its 3rd year. I have been curious about how a WOMEX- style event might feel outside of Europe and in an island setting, and even more curious about Cabo Verde. When the opportunity to cover the AME presented itself I didn’t think twice.
Cabo Verde (you may know it as Cape Verde) is an excellent location for the event, as its music is acknowledged as a primary export. Its Minister of Culture, Mario Lucio Sousa is also a musician, and recognizes the importance of developing the economic side of the arts of his homeland. I suspect he was a major driver in getting this impressive event organized.
The uninhabited island cluster of Cabo Verde was first discovered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and used as a base for the slave trade. As a result the people of this windswept archipelago are now a combination of races that reflect many cultures and take pride in that mix. In the song form called morna, one feels the dark imprint of Portuguese saudade, while the percussion driven dance batuque comes from a sensuous African root. Add in the rhythms of ocean waves for an island lilt, and you can imagine the attractions of the music.
Although the AME 2014 promoted Cabo Verdean artists and labels, it was also a showcase for artists from other areas. This year Guinea Bissau (linked politically and historically) and even Reunion Island were represented, along with a sprinkling of acts from Europe and Brazil.
It was difficult to capture even a fraction of music that was presented, but I have tried to give a decent sampling, and a feel for what it was like to be there. I also hope that my video captured some of the beauty of the place and the people. And I have to mention that along with its music, Cabo Verdean coffee is excellent, grown right in the volcanic soil on the island of Fogo, (my partner demolished the package I brought back within days; I should have brought back more!) as are the grapes that go into its wine, Chã, which is export quality, complex –and potent! The cuisine is also lovely (the seafood is awesome) always fresh, and I did not come across anything pre-prepared. This sometimes makes for a bit of a wait at restaurants – but what‘s the hurry?
TIP: I would recommend visiting Cabo Verde during the AME as the weather is perfect then, all the night time showcases are free to the public, and the Kreol Jazz Festival follows right after the AME, and that is a wonderfully programmed event as well.

For more information about the AME visit:
for other performances by some of the artists in this article, visit:

Post a comment


More on Big Music from Small Places: Maya Kamaty at AME from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

My previous post on Cape Verdean Singer Neuza, resulted in a trip to the AME, The Atlantic Music Expo in Cape Verde. As impressive as the local talent was, there were plenty of great acts drawing from the environs. I’m working on a longer mini-doc on the event (stay tuned!) but want to present one of my favorites right away, a singer songwriter from the island of Réunion.
Apologies up front that you are going to hear camcorder sound on this, but I think you will be able to get the basic feeling of being there and the excitement that this act generates.
Maya Kamaty is the daughter of Gilbert Pounia, front man for the band Ziskakan, one of the most popular groups on the island. They create music that is a heterogeneous blend of European, African and Indian elements (representing the population of the island) with a tasty dose of modern pop elements. So it is no wonder that Ms. Kamaty’s music contains all of these elements as well. “Ziskakan” is, by the way, celebrating their 35 years in music together, no mean feat for a band.
Although her songwriting is quite strong, I am presenting her performing a song her father wrote, “Vavang.” The two actually collaborate on occasion, but I can assure you Ms. Kamaty is a fine songwriter in her own right, and I’ll present one of her originals at a later date. In case you are wondering, she is playing a “kayamb” – a flat, square rattle made from sugar cane tubes and seeds, and a common instrument in both Maloya and Sega music, the two main genres of the island.

Post a comment


Habib Koite, one of Mali’s most beloved singer/guitarists was in town last month to promote his new CD “Soô” on Contre Jour Records. He packed NYC’s City Winery with a polyglot audience, which included a hefty West African compliment.

Koité is a seasoned performer, and everyone on stage was relaxed and having fun. The most striking aspect of the show was the use of an unusual hybrid instrument, having a 6-string guitar neck with a banjo head and resonator. While played in the Malian guitar style, it projected the singular tone of a banjo. (Not all that odd, considering the banjo is African in origin.) This is also one of the strong sonic additions to “Soô ” which was recorded in Koite’s home studio, and which I highly recommend.

Habib Koite: A West African Fête at the City Winery from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

I had brought along my intern Molly Marcotte for second camera, and I think I had almost as much fun seeing her reactions to this show as I had to the show itself. As the show progressed more and more people were throwing money at the musicians and coming up on stage to dance with the maestro. While this is typical, down home behavior for an African audience I think it entranced Molly, particularly the style and skill of the dancing. By the time the show ended, Koité was standing in a puddle of greenbacks and the stage was a party in which everyone had a chance to show off their moves. And some of those moves were very impressive!

The song I am presenting is called “Diarabi Niani” a song about the hazards of love, and it occurred fairly early on in the set. But you can definitely see the party is beginning!

For an informed review of the CD, background on the artist, sound samples and more, visit the ever excellent site Rootsworld, at

Post a comment


Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.