Music of Cape Verde

Lusophone music
Cape Verde
East Timor
São Tomé and Príncipe
Sri Lanka

Cape Verde is known internationally for morna, a form of folk music usually sung in creole-Portuguese, accompanied by clarinet, accordion, violin, guitar and cavaquinho. Morna has primarily European roots, but the islands also boast funana and batuco music that are more closely related to West African styles.

Cape Verde is an island archipelago that was uninhabited until the Portuguese arrived in 1462. The sailors brought with them African slaves, and the islands' population became mixed with elements of both races. Climate conditions made the islands unhospitable, and the Portuguese mostly ignored the inhabitants and the frequent droughts and famines that wracked the islands periodically. As a result, there are now more Cape Verdeans abroad than at home, and sizable communities exist in New England, Portugal, Wales, Senegal, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

Morna is by the most popular genre of Cape Verdean music, and it has produced an international superstar in Cesária Évora. Morna is, like Argentinian tango, a national song-style beloved by Cape Verdeans across the many islands of the country. It is related to Portuguese fado and its close cousin, Brazilian modinha. Lyrics are usually in Kriolu, and reflect highly-variable themes, including love and lust, patriotism and mourning.

Morna is believed to have originated on Boa Vista as a cheerful song-type. Eugénio Tavares was an influential songwriter of the period, and his songs are still extensively performed. Morna also spread to São Vicente, and performers like Manuel de Novas and B. Leza became popular. Solo vocalists were accompanied by a guitar (or, more rarely, a fiddle, viola or bass guitar) and a piano or accordion. The cavaquinho (similar to a ukulele), a Portuguese and Brazilian instrument, was also common.

Aside from Évora, popular morna musicians include Ildo Lobo, Titinha, Celina Pereira, Bana, Djosinha, B. Leza, Travadinha, Sãozinha and Maria Alice.

Funana is an accordion-based genre from Santiago, the most African of the islands. It is a sensual dance music that may have come from São Tomé along with the accordion early in the 20th century. Prior to independence, funana was denigrated by colonial authorities, who considered it primitive. Since independence, however, bands like Bulimundo adapted the music for pop audiences and Finaçon, who combined funana and coladeira into a fusion called funacola. Traditional funana's most famous performer is Kodé di Dona.

In the 1930s, Morna evolved in a swifter form of music called coladeira. It is a more light-hearted and humorous genre, with sensual rhythms. Performers include Manuel de Novas, Frank Cavaquim, Djosa Marques and, the most popular of them all, Os Tubarões.

Batuco is also popular in Cape Verde. Originally a woman's folk music, batuco is an improvised music with strong satirical or critical lyrics.

There are many Cape Verdeans living abroad, especially in the United States, where they are concentrated in California, Hawaii and throughout New England, especially Rhode Island and Boston. Many came on whaling ships in the 19th century. Their music included string bands like The B-29s, Notias, Augusto Abrio and the Cape Verdean Serenaders. There were also Cape Verdean big bands, including the Creole Vagabonds and the Don Verdi Orchestra. More modern musicians include Frank de Pina, Mendes Brothers (and their influential record label, MB Records), Saozinha, Creole Sextet and Rui Pina.


  • Máximo, Susana and David Peterson. "Music of Sweet Sorrow". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 448-457. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0de:Musik der Kapverdischen Inseln

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