For twenty years, Cape Verdean music has been personified internationally by just one singer, the magnificent Cesaria Evorathe "barefoot diva," so-called following her decision always to perform shoeless, in solidarity with the impoverished Cape Verdeans who make up the bulk of her native audience. The 67-year old Evora's name is now practically synonymous with Cape Verde's bittersweet morna style, aka saudade Cabo-Verdiana (literally, "Cape Verdean nostalgic yearning").
At last, the curtain is rising on other stars-in-waiting. In 2007, Mayra Andrade debuted with the gorgeous Navega (Sterns Music, 2007), in which the 23-year old mixed morna with sunnier tracks owing more to Brazilian samba and bossa nova.
And now Evora and Andrade have been joined by Evora's close contemporary Titina (Albertina Rodrigues Almeida), who has returned to the studios after an absence of fifteen yearsdisenchanted with the music business, Titina quit recording right after releasing her debut album, Titina Canta B.Leza (Sel, 1993), basing herself in Lisbon, Portugal and making intermittent appearances at world music festivals.
On her comeback album, the Lisbon-recorded Cruel Destino, a 10-track collection of classic morna material, Titina starts up right where she left off in 1993, with three more songs written by the seminal post-war Cape Verdean poet and composer B.Leza, plus another seven written by members of his circle.
Titina is accompanied by an authentic morna line-up featuring guitarsboth Portugese and Brazilianviolins, clarinet and percussion, given beguiling salon arrangements by Humberto Ramos, who also produces and plays acoustic piano.
The musicpoignant melodies sung over guitar and violin counterpoints and subtle but insistent, slow-to-mid tempo, courtly dance rhythmscould be described as heavenly, if heaven was flecked with sadness and loneliness. Cape Verde's role as an international shipping centre went into terminal decline following the Second World War, and many people were forced to emigrate in order to support their families. Lovers' partings inspired many classic morna songs.
Two tracks"A Mim Na Melo Di Mar" (Me In The Middle Of The Sea) and "Sala Travda" (Tight Skirt)are more up-tempo and (Portugese lyrics aside) sound more lighthearted. But even at its most mournfully intense, the best morna, like the best blues or the best tango, somehow strengthens the resolve of the listener. Cruel Destino, despite its title, will raise the spirits rather than depress them. A deep and beautiful album.
Personnel: Titina: vocals; Bau: 12-string guitar; Djon Luz: cavaquinho; Humberto Ramos: piano; Costa Neto: bass; Vaiss: guitar (1-3, 6, 8); Atito: guitar (4, 5, 7, 9, 10); Miroca: percussion; To Barbosa: violin; Paulo Viana: violin; Antonio Figueiredo: violin; D.Salome: clarinet; Vaiss: backing vocals; Costa Neto: backing vocals; Djon Luz: backing vocals; Mrioca: backing vocals.