Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Mouse that Roared: Jorge Humberto

Cape Verde, a country 600 kms off the coast of West Africa, and made up of 10 rocky islands has a population of just over half a million souls. It was part of the Portuguese empire that linked Angola with Mozambique, and Brazil with Goa and Timor.  Chances are you’ve never met anyone from the country unless you’ve spent time in Portugal where people from all the old imperial holdings mix together in the squares and bars of major cities.  The economy of Cape Verde is small and produces very little. 90% of the food Cape Verdians eat is imported.

Cape Verde

When it comes to musical culture, however, Cape Verde is a heavy hitter. Punching far above its weight, it has produced some of the most popular singers and infectious styles of music that the mind boggles.  Of course, best known in the West was the late Cesaria Evora. But many jazz icons (Horace Silver, Paul Gonsalves) were expatriate Cape Verdians, as was the R&B group famous in the 70s and 80s, Tavares.

The national music of the country is a guitar based dance music known as morna. Songs of love and departure, longing and homesickness (so many have had to seek work far from home) and songs of joy and great feeling. “A hymn of love, illusion and melancholy” according to the poet Fausto Duarte, morna is like a contagion.  Catch it once and you’ll have recurring (and very pleasurable) bouts regularly thereafter.
Jorge Humberto

I’ve been listening to Jorge Humberto’s Ar de Nha Terra, pretty much continuously for the past few days.  It is music that is impossible to dislike. Indeed, as soon as he starts strumming the guitar you’ll feel as if you can smell the ocean and feel the breeze blowing across your face. 

A gifted singer with a warm, persuasive voice, Jorge Humberto was born on the 26th December 1959 on São Vicente in the port of Mindelo, the cosmopolitan hub and cultural capital of the Cape Verde archipelago since the last century. With a magical, instinctive, profound feel for words, the son of Mindelo has developed a style whose poetic and musical vein is enriched by philosophical musings. He began to write in 1975, the year of independence. The end of colonisation was also an intellectual liberation, giving impetus to every artistic genre. This creative effervescence also led to the appearance of many groups who gave a new momentum to traditional music (mornas and coladeras) and paid tribute to its African (batuque, tabanka, etc.) and European (mazurka, contredanse, etc.) roots. Jorge Humberto joined this movement. In 1982, he began his public performances of classical mornas and Coladeras on the guitar, with a particular fondness for the works of the old poets, such as Eugénio Tavares and B. Leza, relatively in tune with his sensibilities as a social commentator.
Sculpture in honor of Cape Verdian musicians
in Mindelo

After a work accident that affected his fingers and forced him to play guitar in a different way, Jorge Humberto moved to Portugal. The depth and originality of his lyrics make him a special figure on the Cape Verde musical scene. His psychological observations, existential thoughts and metaphors, and taste for social critique link him to the "Claridade" literary school founded in the 1930s in Mindelo, whose key personalities were Baltasar Lopes and Jorge Barbosa. The Creole language the artist employs (a language he says he loves “like the food you eat”) enables him to achieve extreme precision of expression and ensure a greater harmony of sound in his words and music. (http://www.lusafrica.com/4_1.cfm?p=50-artiste-world-music-cap-vert-label-lusafrica)
Really really nice music, this.  Close your eyes, turn it up and let your mind wander to the warm waters of the Atlantic.

            Track Listing
01 Antiguidade
02 Mindel Bêrc
03 Luz dum violã
04 Na magia d'marginal
05 Crisola
06 Bô ausénca
07 Atê um volta um estréla
08 Nem tudo é rosa
09 Força de tambor
10 Estréla cadente
11 Nu nostalgia
12 Dum banda sô


LolaRadio said...

Thanks for this beautifull music. Jorge Humberto's Anti-stress songs!
Since Cap Verdians are excellent sailers eh sea men, you can find them in many harbours troughout the world. Here in the Netherlands live more than 20.000 souls, mostly in Rotterdam. They have their own organisations, restaurants and shops (with lots of music).

Thanx again

ajnabi said...

20,000? wow.

Apurva Bahadur said...

Soothing, melodious music. Like Ajnabi says, it is difficult to stop listening. Apurva from Pune, India.