Protegid (Galileo Music GMC036, 2010)
Cape Verde, those tiny, previously Portuguese-owned islands just off Africa’s Western tip, has given the world more great female singers than I can readily recall, and all of them are notable. As to what makes them so, it could be how well they uphold their homeland’s musical traditions, their knack for bringing other influences into the picture or some combination of the two.
In any case, Cape Verdean music is such a big part of the global scene that even fans of a most purist nature are beginning to cautiously welcome a little experimentation. No need to worry when it comes to Cape Verdean-born, London-based Carmen Souza, though. She’s got the vocal mixture of sass and sadness that makes so much Cape Verdean music so appealing, and the blend of sodade (longing) and other musical colors (lifted primarily from American jazz) she achieves on Protegid is likewise an intriguing combination.
The track “Afri Ka” is a nod to where all this originated, but songs such as “Dos Eternidade” are seasoned with tasty shifts in rhythm and mood that playfully refuse to be pigeonholed. Souza’s voice ranges from childlike to husky, and she keeps a cast of players from a dozen or so nations (recorded in about as many locations) seamlessly connected to one lush groove after another. Highlights include Horace Silver’s classic “Song For My Father” taking a new turn with the addition of Creole lyrics, but the whole disc is a landmark that will prompt you to embrace and at the same time rethink everything you know and love about the sounds of Cape Verde.
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