New Internationalist

Balancê

Issue 389

It’s easy to say that the music of Cape Verde hit the ground running. But spare a thought for the musicians of the new Verdean generation: such artists, like the brightly talented Sara Tavares, who represent the link between the African-flavoured fado of their parents with the interwoven cultures experienced in any modern city. The Lisbon-based singer-songwriter Tavares is alert to the pitfalls that threaten anyone bridging the gap between heritage and upbringing. Rarely has an album been better named: Balancê is a release that takes up the challenge with grace and poise.

Indeed, the 13 songs of Balancê tilt at a self-defined quality. Tavares favours a rich mix of language – Portuguese, with rich slang inflections from Angola, Lisbon and Verdean Crioulo, with English kept to a healthy minimum. The resonances attached to such vocabulary do not marginalize the linguistically challenged listener. Tavares’ musical style is very much her own: ballads, though not the gut-wrenchers with which fado is associated, all with soufflé-light arrangements and nuances. Now and then, an accordion takes a phrase and runs with it, as on the lovely ‘Ess Amor’, but in all, the emphasis is on control. The stunning ‘De Nua’ (featuring fadonista Ana Moura), is a prime example: just drums and two voices, but the tight focus is felt elsewhere. ‘Planeta Sukri’ (Sugar Planet) sweetens Cesaria Evora’s favoured coladeira rhythm with a loose, reggae template; ‘Bom Feeling’ swings with good-humoured exhortations, and ‘Muna Xeia’ (Full Moon) is luxurious in its wistful simplicity. Solid talent, impressively produced.

Louise Gray

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