Throughout the 1990s, Cesaria Evora has redefined the world music business. This diva from the Cape Verdean archipelago has sold hundreds of thousands of records and has performed at the world's most prestigious concert halls. A decade ago, virtually no one outside of West Africa had any idea where Cape Verde was, let alone what Cape Verdean music sounded like. That was until producer Jose da Silva went back to his home in the archipelago, met Cesaria Evora, encouraged her to record some music in Paris, and the rest, as they say, is history. While Evora's voice is one of a kind, deep, powerful and able to emotionally touch audiences across all language barriers, today, scores of musicians of all generations are performing Evora-esque, bluesy and nostalgic rhythms called mornas and coladeiras.
Fifteen of these musicians are featured on the new collection, The Spirit of Cape Verde, a follow-up to the 1996 release, The Soul of Cape Verde. The album is a collection of artists who have recorded for Da Silva's Lusafrica label. While none of them have achieved Evora's level of success, individually they exemplify the rich variety of music on this small chain of islands once used as a slave port by the Portuguese. Most of the music is acoustic and performed on European instruments, including guitar, cavaquinho -- a small, four-stringed guitar of Portuguese origin -- and violin, but with a uniquely African percussive rhythm.
While many buyers will be drawn to Evora's name on the first track, "Areia de Salamansa," virtually all of the selections on Spirit are wonderful. One of the album's true gems is from the group Simentera. With a stronger African beat than typically found in Cape Verdean music, Simentera is a name to watch for in the future. On the other extreme, several younger divas on Spirit, including Maria Alice and Celina Pereira, seem to be inspired by Edith Piaf-esque French chansons. This may sound like an odd idea, but it's perfect for these slow, melancholy tales.
So, even if you've never been to Cape Verde, this collection from those faraway islands is sure to put you in a reminiscent mood, and introduces you to a few Cape Verdeans who don't have the surname Evora.