Lisbon's African Underground
the exterior of Lisbon's crumbling grandeur lie many secrets, not least
its vibrant African music scene. As the old colonial capital it is a
melting pot for musicians from Guinea Bissau, Angola, Cabo Verde, Mozambique
and Sao Tome (the PALOP countries).
Just as immigrant Nueva York dominated salsa in the seventies, African
Lisbon dominates PALOP music today. But although the African presence
is all around you have to know where to look to find the music. The
majority of the live music clubs such as Enclave, and B-Leza are
Cape Verdian run and areas such as Damaia, and Praca Espanha bristle
the music of these islands.
Damaia whitewashed walls, tropical plants, car
based conversation blocking the streets, African music tearing through
pavements; more Africa than Lisbon suburb. Radio blasts out of the
cars – its RDP Africa the continents main station and it’s
a PALOP station. The music is Lura her blend of Cape Verde rhythm with
US soul raising a few eyebrows.
Damaia is also home to Sons D'Africa, Palop Africa's
biggest record label. Inside its deadpan MD Ze Orlando, a larger
than life character
who is responsible for the majority of Cape Verde’s music production.
Upstairs is a buzzing record shop downstairs the air-conditioned corridor
sees a constant flow of the hopeful and successful.
If live music is your goal then stay up late.
Midnight is the best time to arrive a B-Leza,a club run by one of
Bana’s sons. Named
after Cape Verde’s greatest troubadours (it was the nickname
given him by visiting sailors) B-leza has a largely Cape Verdian music
programme, although artists such as Philip Mukenga and Manecas Costa
also appear. Huge iron gates lead into a run down colonial courtyard,
stairs take you up to the main hall. Here crumbling stucco and peeling
paint are hardly noticeable in the dim light. The music's Latin / Brazilian
twist is never more apparent than on the dance floor where couples
welded at the hip dance merengue and zouk style to Funana and coladeira
After two the musicians drift in from other shows
to join in the late night jam sessions. Tonight there's Nancy Vieira,
and Maria Alice. As Bius takes the lead the band moves up a notch,
Danny Silva bringing it back to a more sultry feel. Maria Alice is
the new soul of Cape Verde; she captivates the audience as she runs
through the Fado like Morna, Merengue style Funana 'til 5 when the
session winds down. A perfect blend for the small hours.
Sundays you can still catch the Cape Verdian
legend Bana in the intimate setting of the club’s tiny restaurant.
This giant now in his seventies introduced Europe to the sounds of
Cape Verde paving the
way for the success of singers such as Cesaria Evora.