Tag Archives: Cape Verde

The Moving Blog

The Sunrise: Yuri de Cunha Concert in Lisbon

The Meo Arena, with a capacity of 20, 000 people, was almost packed last 19th July for the concert of the celebration of the 20 year-long career of Yuri da Cunha. This was an incredible show of three and a half hours, during which he shared the stage with the most important artists that have collaborated with him and have contributed to the development of his artistic identity.

This was a show that did not need to depend on elaborate scenic production: instead, it opened with just two female dancers presenting movements from traditional Angolan dances, to testify since the very beginning the artist’s emphasis on the importance of Angolan popular and traditional roots for his own work.

The Angolan singer made this concert an authentic homage to Luso-African rhythms: the first round of music presented Yuri’s classics and ended with the powerful performance of the Mozambican singer Lizha James, whose “Quem te mandou“ got the audience really excited and made everyone get up and dance.

During the first part, we enjoyed some of Yuri’s best known songs– “Amigo”, “Tá doer” and “Zig Zig”– mixed in a unique harmonious sequence that revealed in a lively and animated manner the incredible qualities of Yuri’s orchestra and his own unbelievable sensibility as singer. In contrast, the second part of the concert was dedicated to calmer and more songs. An unforgettable moment was when guitars and drums fell silent to slide gently into the theme “Viola” dedicated to the memory of the great musician Beto de Almeida (one of the Irmãos Almeida, who disappeared in October 2013), to remember to all those present the important historical and political value that music has in Angola and to commemorate Beto’s important role in the valorization and development of popular national music.

This intense moment reminded us all that music has had its martyrs in Angola, and that the cheerful character of most Angolan music can still, as always did, even in the most dynamic carnival rhythm, accompany the tragedy of history, the fight for freedom as well as the mourning of political deaths.

That wasn’t the only profound moment of the night, and as Yuri stated, the best was yet to come!!! Yuri invited on stage Don Kikas with whom sang the theme “Pura sedução”, a classic, known by almost the whole arena, and then continued alone with two romantic pieces: “Regressa” and “Sanzala”, a theme that flows from a semba structure to a mixed structure of Semba and Samba, and that prepared the public for another rhythmic journey and a new artist, when the diasporic Caboverdian artist Nelson Freitas appeared to sing “Saia Branca”. Finally, the artists sang together two more songs: “Ir mais longe” and a funana that Yuri had composed some years ago as a tribute to Caboverdian music and culture.

What a night! Different generations of star Angolan musicians– Maya Cool, Paulo Flores, C4 Pedro and Big Nelo, The Groove– all participated in this enormous event and gave their best– all of them showing highest quality of musical and stage performance.

Then Os Piluka arrived on stage for the climactic moment, showing the power that makes them the most sought-after kuduro group today.

he concert was almost at the end when Yuri da Cunha decided to pay homage Angola and asked the audience to sing with him the Angolan National Anthem. It was the most touching moment of the night, as Caboverdians, Portuguese nationals, and many foreigners sang together with the enormous Angolan community of Portugal to express their respect and love for Angola and its culture. All singing in unison in a spirit of friendship and familiarity and celebrating the continuous cultural exchange existing between Angola and Portugal.

Anselmo Ralph was the last artist to appear on the stage. He sang “Curtição” e “Única mulher” together with the public, who could accompany every word till the point of singing last song till the end leaving Anselmo listening and admiring the effect of the whole theatre interpreting his song.

The celebration of this 20 years career ended with the hits “Atchutchutcha” e “Kuma Kwa Kie” (which in kimbundo means: The Sunrise) while, appropriately, a new day was almost about to dawn. The last song lasted more then 10 minutes to give all the artists the time to re-enter the stage and to dance all together while Angolan carnival started exploding with the increase of the percussion and speed of the Semba flowing briefly into kazukuta to then go back again to the original version.

The whole Meo Arena was jumping and dancing, all people hugging each other celebrating friendship, just as Yuri had asked. This all couldn’t end, of course, without Sabonete Sabão: a popular song to cleanse energies and kill evil.

The dancers on stage began demonstrating the typical carnival movements, improvising and just following the music. Carnival really appeared in all its spirit and all became movement, and the Angolan community was united, proud, happy… and generously open to those who were there to show their love for Angolan music and dance. When Yuri da Cunha presented on the stage his MTV African music award, won for the Best Collaboration, he raised up the award, saying: “Lisboa, Portugal, Angola, this is not mine! This prize is ours Lusophone people, and it’s here for you”.

Yuri da Cunha, this great musician and amazing performer showed another side of his artistic activity: a commitment to Angola and its traditions as a central point for the development of the future of Angolan musical and cultural identity. With his words “only protecting the past we can build the future” he declared that a great part of Angolan past still needed to be analyzed and re-elaborated and in its roots there are the seeds for a much-awaited, democratic development.

His music is the narration of this journey.

FRANCESCA NEGRO

The Moving Blog

Tribute to Cape Verde in Lisbon

From July 16 to 18, Modern Moves team members (Ananya, Madison and Elina) went to Lisbon for a special encounter with Afro-lusophone music and dance cultures.

Unfortunately, Francesca was not there as she was giving dance classes in France (yes, MM team members are often playing musical chairs!), but we met Livia Jiménez, Spanish anthropologist now working at the University of Lisbon as a postdoctoral fellow with a project analysing interethnic relations and ethnic constructions in contexts of social dance (through kizomba and bachata). It is an understatement to say that we had some topics to discuss!

She led us to lunch in a secret place, on the 8th floor of a building near Marques de Pombal. We were excited to discover there the Associação Caboverdeana restaurant where we could enjoy “almoços dançantes” (live music from Cape Verde and people dancing in the middle of lunch) only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

(Video Courtesy of Livia Jimenez)

The taste of the typical Cape Verdian meal cachupa watered with a nice vinho verde, the beautiful voice of Zézé Barbosa singing moving morna songs and energetic funana and coladera pieces on hearing which we could not stay seated, the amazing view of Lisbon from the large windows and the joyful atmosphere in this unexpected dancing place transformed this moment into a special day for Modern Moves.

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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari
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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari

As Ananya explained us that it was in these kinds of places that kizomba was born, among people sharing a certain nostalgia for Afro-luso culture, we were able to feel more deeply the historical power of such hidden venues. Even more, when we learned that this place is not only attended by people from Cape Verde but also by all sorts of Lisbon-dwellers, e. g some mature gentlemen who served the Portuguese empire, including some who had even fought in Angola on the eve of its independence, we could feel how music and dance can be a site for people to reconnect themselves with a part of their personal life histories, and for those histories to become part of a larger story.

Before this unforgettable lunch, our immersion in the Cape Verdian heritage in Lisbon had already started with Kwenda Lima’s show Muloma on the evening of our arrival and oops, we did it again on the second night of our stay.

When we entered the venue, the Malaposta Cultural Centre, all our senses were attracted to the distinctive smell of incense pervading the space, the sound of the rhythms played by a jembé player on a corner of the stage in front of the heavy velvet curtain, the red and white flowers and candles in the foreground of the stage, aesthetically arranged.

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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari

All these items were creating a very special atmosphere even before the beginning of the piece. Indeed, the entire show was going to unfold like a ritual, from the start to the end, from the two little girls dressed in white coming from the back to the stage holding a plate with lit candles to the ultimate scream of one of the dancers, a birth and a death.

The piece, which lasts one hour, is divided in three parts and performed by five female dancers and Kwenda. Apart from their physical movements, the evident work that went into the assemblage of the soundtrack has to be acknowledged as it definitely contributes to create a powerful and moving atmosphere, carrying different kinds of spirituality, from the Middle East to Africa. These different musical ambiances were unified by the dancers’ moves (undulations) and some ever-present sounds like the layers produced by synthesizer, cello or bass and the use of breath throughout.

The quite slow tempo of the music, the natural colours (brown, magenta…) and blurred shapes of the costumes, the lights like dawn and sunset, the feline moves, the whispers and the growls, all was there to suggest the (lack of?) border between human and animal, the primitiveness of sexual instincts and the primal need for spirituality.

The mix between latent eroticism, spirituality and nature of the first part reminded me of the famous Nijinski’s piece L’après-midi d’un faune, with regards to the work on the virility of the male body and to several scenes, when copulation was suggested or when Kwenda was promenading in the middle of the female dancers (the nymphs?) who were on their knees in an attitude of prayer in a sort of pagan ritual. In a striking tableau, Kwenda dances in the foreground with a calabash while another dancer moves slowly across the backdrop. Both almost nude, they suggest —among other things— the emptiness of materialism and the difficulty of dialogue.

The hinge between the two dancing parts is a video screening, which first celebrates nature and mother earth — an ongoing concern of Kwenda’s, but suddenly switches to images of manmade disasters.

In the third part, the video element continues, but screens fragment, mysterious images multiply and the predominant colours change to red and white. reminding us of the orisha Chango. All the candles are now lit, and calabashes and straw brooms are incorporated by the dancers. A single dancer swirled fabric around herself, whirling dervish-like; in the final scene, this use of fabric by all the dancers reminded me in a way of Loïe Fuller’s Serpentine Dance.

This piece is symbolically complex and uses many items from different sources to critique capitalism, consumerism, and ecological neglect. It provoked numerous questions in us, besides also simply moving us. Kwenda Lima, born in Cape Verde, performing in Lisbon for an international audience, offered a syncretized Afro-contemporary dance piece that has its place on a globalized stage. And as Ananya said to him after the show when he asked if we were surprised to see another part of his choreographic work, we were especially very happy to discover a “continuation” and the embodiment of his philosophy, which we had already discovered through his kaizen classes.

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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari

Even though Muloma was the main goal of this trip to Lisbon, we not only enjoyed the Cape Verdian ‘dancing-lunch’, but also visited Jazzy Studio and the B. Leza club —in a word the main places in which Afro-lusophone music and dance culture in Lisbon is performed.

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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari

And even if the locals may not be particularly interested in what we were looking for, you could not walk in Baixa Chiado without encountering some Capoeira dancers (from Sweden!) in the street or listening to a Cape Verdian orchestra in front of Café a Brasileira. Yes, in Lisbon you can’t avoid the African connection, and it is for the best!

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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari
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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari
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Photo Courtesy of Elina Djebbari

ELINA DJEBBARI