<Women of Cape Verde>

The Cape Verdian Music Scene


Inside Lisbon's African Underground

Beneath 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 with the music of these islands.

Damaia whitewashed walls, tropical plants, car based conversation blocking the streets, African music tearing through frayed speakers, unfinished 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 rhythms.

After two the musicians drift in from other shows to join in the late night jam sessions. Tonight there's Nancy Vieira, Danny Silva, Bius 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.

  "Clubs such as Luanda bristle with activity. DJs such as Joao Reis keep the floors busy with a mix of Kuduro, Brazilian and RnB"


The Record Labels


Balaphon Records
Rua Dona Estafania 121 A
Loja G
100 - 153


email: balaphon@

Small label with some very good titles particularly by Guinea Bissau artists. Nice little shop too.



Avenida Bombeiros Voluntarios 13 1675 Pontinha


The main label for Mozambican music based in both Lisbon and Maputo. No retail side



Rua Alfrredo Guisado 10 - 3



One the big labels with music from all PALOP countries. No retail side - find their stock in Valentim da Cavalho, and FNAC in Baixa.



Sons D'Africa
Rua Dona Maria II 53 / 53a Damaia
2720 Amadora


The largest label for Cape Verdian music with over 250 titles. Run by ex singer Ze Orlando, there is also a shop that is worth a trip out to the suburbs for.



Sterns African Music Centre
Euston Road
(next to Warren St tube)


Not quite in the Lisbon neighbourhood but the record selection for PALOP Africa is the best in Britain.



B-Leza, Lisbon

"B-Leza; based in the courtyard and hall of an 18th century merchant house, is the venue for live African in Lisbon"


Know What I Mean?

Named after an Angolan Warrior queen. Ginga is a sexy way of walking by woman

The Cape Verde people's ease of spirit that makes for laid back openness

Another facet of this dispersed nation is the longing for home called sodade

Very similar to the Latino Sabroso meaning tasty, piquant




Rhythm & Grooves

Very Fast rhythm form Cape Verde, with a merengue style dance to accompany it

Literally meaning a cook pot this fusion of European contratempo and African music has evolved a sophistication close to Bossa Nova

Tabanka and Batuque
Ultra roots rhythms from Sao Vincente and Santo Antao, Cabo Verde, tapped out on anything!

This slow very nostalgic style is considered by some the African source of Fado, its late night piano bar feel has been popularised by Cesaria Evora and Maria Alice.




Where To Find It

Tv. Teixeira Junior, 6


One of the most popular clubs with mainstay DJs the hugely popular Joao Reis and new kid on the block Madabaya


Largo Conde Barao


The best place for live African music in Lisbon


Rua do Rato


Excellent Cabo Verdian restaurant, with Fado bar style upstairs and live music downstairs


"The jam sessions at Enclave might include Bana, Maria Alice and Vaiss"


Radio do Canal Angola Online
This online radio station broadcasts 24 hours a day, playing Kizomba and Angolan music and news. Check out their website, or go directly to the music.


Palop Africa 2 | the tour | the artistes | the gallery | the scene | contact

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