Recently, I spoke with Lura, French-speaking singer of Cape Verdean music, ahead of her Australian shows at WOMADelaide this weekend. Ticket links and concert days at the bottom of the article. You can also read about the full WOMAD line-up here.
How would you describe your music?
My music is a mixture of roots. A mix because Cape Verde are islands which have been inhabited for more or less 500 years by Africans and Europeans primarily. So that has led to an unbelievable mixture on many levels but on a musical level, it’s quite something. So we have the morne and the coladeira which are European like Saint Jean. There’s also the bazooka which has strong European influences but played in a Cape Verdean way. Then there’s the more African side with the batuque and the funana, which is very rhythmic, very happy. So it is an interesting mix.
Do you play typical Cape Verdean music?
Yes, I would say that I play music which is very much inspired by the typical Cape Verdean music. For example, I don’t play the funana as it was played originally. It was originally played only with the ferrinho and an accordion. Now we play with the guitar, drums, bass, piano and many other instruments. So it is an orchestra which plays the funana which was traditionally only played by 2 people. There has of course been an evolution but my music is really inspired by Cape Verdean traditional music.
How many people are coming with you to Australia?
There are 5 of us on stage. Me, the guitarist, the drummer, the bassist and the pianist.
Do all of the musicians come from Cape Verde?
No, the drummer is Belgian. That also creates a mixture of experience on stage. The bassist, Thierry Fanfant, is from Guadeloupe. The guitarist and pianist are Cape Verdeans and so it creates something a special.
How did you find these musicians from everywhere to form the band?
It was in the studio. The pianist has played with me for more than 10 years. He has lived in Lisbon in the music scene. The guitarist, Johnny Fonseca, has been known in Cape Verde and has played with many artists. He is a very experienced guitarist and very comfortable with music. That gives a lot of comfort to the group. Thierry Fanfant is very, very well-known for his music in Guadeloupe and for jazz in France He and his brother, Jean-Philippe Fanfant, are very well-known. They create music of very high quality. One day I told my producer that I would like to work with these incredible musicians and one day they contributed to my album. In the end, he is a kind guy to play with us and he accepted. For me, It was “Wowww! Amazing”. The drummer, we were looking for someone who lived in Europe but who played drums in the Cape Verdean way. My pianist told me “I know a drummer, but he is Belgian”. So I said “Belgian? Let’s listen and see.” He too was amazing. Unbelievable. He’s really Cape Verdean. Impressive. We were all happy. We are a family, we laugh a lot; it’s very good for the group.
Is it the same group with which you came to WOMADelaide in 2006?
No, only the pianist is the same.
Has your musical style or your live performances changed too then?
No, they are the same. It’s the same joy, the same rhythm. It’s more mature, done better.
So what can the public expect from your concerts at WOMAD?
I think that they will see the joy of singing, the joy of making Cape Verdean music and different rhythms. There is beauty that comes from the mix of roots. The mix of world rhythms.
And they will dance!
Oh yes they will. If they don’t dance, they don’t have a pulse!
Morna is usually sung in creole. Do you sing solely in Cape Verdean creole or also in Portuguese?
I sing in Cape Verdean creole.
What are your songs about?
My songs speak about the history of Cape Verde, Cape Verdean routines. In my last album, I give the message of peace and love to the world. I do a duo with Richard Bona in which we speak of messages to the world. I have a tribute to women, to mothers. I became a mother a year ago. I had my daughter. It’s incredible how through that experience you come to understand a woman’s strength. Wow! It’s really something amazing. In this album, I also speak about our development and acceptation of our music in Cape Verde. We have a history of slavery and of liberation and in our music that happened too. In the beginning, we could not play the batuque or the funana in streets or at parties. Through evolution though we have come to a point where we can play them in a concert. I speak about the human condition and of this situation. So, really I speak about a bit of everything, including our misery.
But in a happy way!
Yes, of course!
That’s something I like about African and African influenced music. The subject matter can be depressing but if we don’t speak the language it is sung in, we would have no idea because it sounds happy, smiley and positive.
Yes, because we can. Mad things happen and you can’t control them but you can create good things with your own hands. You can create, you can smile, and you can have a party. If things are bad, you can’t do anything about them but smile. Have a party to do something else, to live life.
Were you born in Cape Verde?
I was born in Lisbon. I grew up in Lisbon. But over the last 4 years, I lived in Cape Verde to understand what life is like there. I have Cape Verdean roots. My parents are Cape Verdeans who immigrated to Lisbon. I was born in Lisbon so they created this fantastic Cape Verdean universe in my head, which made me want to see Cape Verde and to know everything about it. That’s why I fell in love with Cape Verde and I play Cape Verdean music.
What are your future plans?
I am recording my next album which will get released towards the end of this year. I have started working on it. I am hoping to release a beautiful album which speaks of love. It won’t be romantic songs but an album which is about love.
Will this album be different from your previous ones solely on a subject matter level or also on a musical level?
In terms of the subject matter, yes. But I don’t know. It won’t be very, very different. I don’t like radical change. But it will have something different to stand apart from the other albums but not too different.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I just want to say that I am very happy to come back to Australia for what will be my third or fourth time…. I’ve been in Tasmania and twice before in WOMADelaide so I think it is my fourth time. It’s always great because I love travelling and I love Australia. It’s always a wonderful experience. It’s a pleasure to share my culture with you.
Lura plays WOMADelaide this Saturday and Monday afternoons and will lead a workshop on Sunday afternoon. These are her only Australian shows. You can buy your tickets here.