Bitori and the Legend of funana: the music of revolution from Cape verde

24th June 2016

Title: Legend of Funana: The Forbidden Music of Cape Verde Islands
Label: Analog Africa

This album was originally released in 1997 as Bitori Nha Bibinha featuring the music of Funana including accordion player Victor Tavares (aka Bitori, it took two years of hard work before Tavares could afford to buy his accordian), lead singer Chando Graciosa, drummer Grace Evora, and Danilo Tavares on bass.

Funana was not encouraged by the earlier colonists, the Portuguese, who thought that the style was rather too sensual in nature and was a primitive dance for ‘uneducated peasants’. More importantly, perhaps, it was also seen as a symbol of the struggle for independence. Hence, the music has a strong cultural importance to the Cape Verde people. Maybe this is why performing musicians were thrown in jail and often tortured for their trouble. When independence occured, the genre flourished but it was only recorded during the mid-90s.

The lyrics, I’m told, because I don’t understand a word, talks of working struggles and the harsh reality of life. The creation of this album was long overdue and the resultant release quickly attained classic status. You’ll be able to see the band yourself because they’ll be performing in Europe (what’s left of it) for the first time in the Summer.

In terms of mastering? Well, most decent CDs seem to follow a sort of ‘mastering by numbers’ default which results in a good master that is nothing to write home about but neither is it offensive. Hence, this CD is perfectly listenable without being awe inspiring. That said, the point of this CD is not the mastering but the music itself and the fact that we are allowed to hear it in the first place. As such, this album is full of high tempo, energetic, passionate, vigorous rhythms with an earnest and almost straining vocal delivery from Graciosa, as if he’s reaching for the fruit from the branch of a tree. Graciosa reaches for his own vocal perfection, fronting the genius accordion from Tavares. Maybe he just doesn’t want to let Tavares down. He doesn’t, this is a fine, fine album.