Various ‘Space Echo – The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed’ 2LP/CD/Dig (Analog Africa) 4/5

space-echoCape Verde is best known from a musical perspective for its wonderful morna rhythms as exemplified by the late great Cesaria Evora. However, that is but one of the musical styles on offer, with the uptempo caladeras and funaná rhythms showcased here. Indeed, this this new compilation provides no less than an insider’s guide to the sounds of the islands that comprise Cabo Verde, to give it it’s official name from the late 1970s, and particularly during the 1980s when modern instrumentation made a chance appearance. As the inner sleeve notes indicate, this became literally the case in one example of a ship destined for Rio de Janeiro from the US port of Baltimore that turned up off the coast of a tiny village, full of all the latest musical technology. One Cape Verdean musician who took advantage of the new instrumentation was Paulinho Vieira who went on to become a prominent musical arranger. Cape Verde had, in fact, by 1975 gained independence from former coloniser Portugal and culturally this was reflected by the emergence of new music that combined traditional rhythms with new technology. Multiple influences, both from elsewhere on the African continent and way beyond, come to the surface and make this an appealing and endearing feature of the new anthology.

A key name who graces two songs on the compilation is that of Abel Lima and this writer would like to hear an entire CD’s worth of the singer. From 1977 the more traditional sounding ‘Corre Riba, Corre Baxo’, impresses greatly with brass and guitar the fore and the distinctive vocals that are repeated to some extent on a number three years later, ‘Stebo Cu Anabela’, from 1980. Some of the strongest grooves have a shuffling, percussive beat and in the case of Joao Cirilo’s ‘Po d’Terra’, cheesy keyboards and stunning percussive accompaniment create an unbeatable tandem that is at once subtle, yet rapidly grows on the mind and soul. External influences can be heard on a track such as José Casimiro’s ‘Morti sta bidjàcu’, from circa 1983 with an intoxicating dance rhythm and guitar breaks learnt possibly from listening to Santana while the shift from laid back blues in the intro to all-out rhythm guitar outing with funk and disco flavour on Fany Havest’s, ‘That day’, is delivered in English. The overwhelming majority of the songs are in Portugese.

Needless to say, as with other Analog Africa compilations, the music contained within is impossible to find outside the locality and the authentic grittiness of the original recordings has been retained, which is to the label’s credit. One of the numerous joys of the series as a whole is that a significantly wider audience, and not exclusively a purely world roots one, can finally appreciate how modern instrumentation and North American/European music can be married in total harmony with indigenous rhythms and this fine overview proves exactly that.

Tim Stenhouse