• To be honest, we’d never heard of Cape Verde (now Cabo Verde) before this feature. But its history is intriguing. Largely uninhabited until the 15th Century, the archipelago west of Senegal became a Portuguese hub for the slave trade. As European colonists and West Africans intermingled, a mulatto, Roman-Catholic population emerged. Today, a distinct sound has emerged from the nation of about 500,000— mixing tribal African polyrhythms with classical Portuguese guitars and dance. Here are five artists of Cabo Verdean descent that you need to know.

     

    Lura

    With a voice as clear as a bell and a vibrant smile, Maria de Lurdes Assunção Pina aka Lura is certainly an alluring performer. Dueting with music stars such as Juka since her teens, the 40-year-old has strong Verdean roots. Her most recent album, Herança, translates to “Heritage.” Songs such as the celebratory “Sabi Di Más” show her fervor and spirit, amid her band’s scrape-and-strum morna instrumentation.

     

    Elida Almeida

    Sweet Times Bitter Times is the translation of her very personal album, where she sings of striving for justice and a kinder world for her child and little brothers. Elida Almeida – who sounds like a less fragile Nelly Furtado – knows of pain and beauty, and is able to turn both into reverent earworms. At only 23, she is making her mark in the morna and funaná (a relative of zydeco) scenes.

     

    Ilo Ferreira

    Though he’s been radio-silent for about four years, this musician/aircraft mechanic made the blueprint for mellow, intoxicating acoustica. It doesn’t hurt that beach lord Jimmy Buffet is his biggest supporter. Ferreira has performed at major global festivals such as Bonnaroo and has toured with world-music luminaries such as ukulele god Jake Shimabukuro.

     

    Mayra Andrade

    It takes gumption to call your record Lovely Difficult, but it’s this spunk that sets Mayra Andrade apart from the pack. She’s an advocate for the LGBT community, launching the Free and Equal campaign with the United Nations Human Rights office. She lives in Paris but honors her Cabo Verde hometown of Santiago as often as she can, especially in this 2014 anthropological video. (Lead image courtesy SME.)

     

    Ferro Gaita

    Holding down the funaná fort since 1996, Ferro Gaita rely on accordion and warm percussion to get the party started. The bold vocals of Iduino and the band’s joyful backing melodies have made them the leaders of the return-to-roots movement. They’ve been heralded by the Cabo Verde government for their contribution to the nation’s culture, as well.

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