Genre Guide: Discover Funaná, Tropical Funk Europe Ignored

Danilo Tavares of the long-lost legendary Cape Verdean band Bitori lists some important examples of funaná, a groovy, psychedelic sound from Santiago.

My father is from Cape Verde and has many funaná records, and when I started to play music I realized that this music had stayed in my veins. In 1997 I was asked if I wanted to play bass on a new album, which became Bitori Nha Bibinha, with a talented and well-known accordion player from Cape Verde named Victor Tavares, who’s the bandleader of the group Bitori. After the album, we all went on and did different things—until last year, when Samy [Ben Redjeb of the label Analog Africa] called me. He couldn’t understand why people hadn’t picked up on the LP and wanted to try to get us all together again to record Legend Of Funaná, Forbidden Music of Cape Verde.

Although funaná is considered one of the many Cape Verdean styles of music, it’s specifically from the island of Santiago. It comes from the times of slavery, when Portuguese colonizers ran everything and slaves only got to express themselves late at night. Funaná was a relief for the slaves, who could play all night to forget everything and release their pain, but it wasn’t allowed to be performed in public. There are several different styles of funaná; the normal standard is the fastest one, but there are also slower versions with different rhythms. It started with the [gaita, or diationic] accordion, which came from Portugal but has different tuning than other European standards because initial ones were allegedly broken when they got to the island. Then came the ferrinho, an iron instrument that makes the beat and rhythm. An overview of the genre’s different incarnations are below, which I compiled together with Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb.

Legend Of Funaná, Forbidden Music of Cape Verde is available on Analog Africa’s Bandcamp page.


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