CAPE VERDE / CAVAQUINHO/ HISTORY

 

Fonte: Putumayo World Music

 


CAVAQUINHO DE CABO VERDE

Por Gláucia Nogueira

The cavaquinho plays an important part in Cape Verdian music, often appearing in acoustic groups, in which its role is always to set the rhythm. It is rarely used as a solo instrument.

Due to the recent nature of research into Cape Verdian music, the instrument’s history on the archipelago has yet to be told. At most, we find a brief outline of its role in local musical practice in “Os instrumentos musicais em Cabo Verde”, by Margarida Brito (1998), which highlights the cavaquinho’s presence on the islands by the beginning of the 20th century.

Moving forward to the first decades of this century, we find some mention: in edition Nᵒ 5 of the newspaper ‘O Futuro de Cabo Verde’, from 29th May 1913, when the newspaper was still produced in the colony’s capital, we find an advert by Augusto Vieira, in Lisbon. It announces his “varied assortment of guitars, mandolins, bandoletas, bandoloncelos, bandurras, basses, cavaquinhos, violetas, violas, bass guitars etc.”

Another early 20th century reference to the cavaquinho highlights the musical activities of the composer B.Léza (Francisco Xavier da Cruz, 1905-1958), who, between 1926 and the beginning of the following decade, lived on the isle of Fogo, having created a club in the city of São Filipe where he played the role of musician and cultural entertainer. The group that played with him was made up of Eduardo Barbosa (guitar), Quintinho Sanches Tavares (violin and cavaquinho), and Raul Barbosa (violin), according to the biographer Miguel Alves, himself from the island.

A text by B.Leza, from 1931, included in his book ‘Uma partícula da lira caboverdeana’ (1933), describes a night of serenades in the city of Praia: “Any passer-by who might happen to be wandering there, at that late hour of the night, would find in the second row: two violins, four guitars, a cavaquinho and a mandolin”.

From that same period, now in the USA – where since the 19th century, a sizeable community of Cape Verdians had come to settle - there are references to string groups, formed by Cape Verdians, in which the cavaquinho can be found. This information refers to the first recordings by Cape Verdians.

Abrew’s Portuguese Instrumental Trio is one such group. It appears in the ‘Portuguese String Music’ collection, which brings together recordings made in the USA during the first three decades of the 20th century. Organised by Richard K. Spottswood, specialist in the discography of world music produced in the USA, the compilation also includes Portuguese artists (with Fado and ‘corridos’) and Brazilians (with Choro music). Abrew’s Portuguese Instrumental Trio is made up of violin, viola and cavaquinho.

In the 1930s, the cavaquinho’s presence in Cape Verdian groups is also attested to by the participation, in the 1934 Colonial Exhibition held in Porto, of a delegation from the archipelago. “They are nearly all artists: the girls, exquisite dancers who should cause quite a sensation with their characteristic ‘morna’ and even ‘maxixes’ and sambas and European dances; the men, skilled cavaquinho, guitar, cello and violin players”, noted the Diário de Lisboa, on 23rd June 1934.

It would seem that the cavaquinho arrived in Cape Verde as much from Portugal (as the newspaper advert would suggest), as from Brazil (whose links with the islands were always strong, due to navigation of the Atlantic). However, in her book, Margarida Brito cites the instrument-maker Mestre Baptista [1] (João Baptista Fonseca, 1924-1997), according to whom “the cavaquinho used in Cape Verde was influenced by the Brazilian cavaquinho”.

In his workshop on the isle of São Vicente, Mestre Baptista taught his children how to make instruments. One of them is Bau, a musician who, upon hearing the ‘soled’ cavaquinho style of Brazilian Valdir Azevedo, took off down that path himself, as he discovered what the instrument had to offer beyond mere rhythm-keeping. As an instrument-maker, Bau ended up giving his name to a cavaquinho model with certain characteristics which make it unique.

In São Vicente, further to the workshop belonging to Bau and his siblings, there is another workshop – that of Aniceto Gomes (http://www.geocities.ws/aniceto_gomes/agomes.htm), another of Mestre Baptista’s apprentices. Instrument-makers in Cape Verde are few. Lela Preciosa (Manuel Filipe Rodrigues, 1917-1994), from the very same island, is another name associated with this trade, as is that of Eduardo Lopes (1920s-1990s) and Ivo Pires (1942-2009), both from the isle of Brava and both of whom practised their craft in the USA.

Bibliographic references:

BRITO, Margarida (1998). Os instrumentos musicais em Cabo Verde. Praia: IC/CCP.
CRUZ, Francisco Xavier da (1933) Uma partícula da lira caboverdeana. Praia: Tipografia Minerva de Cabo Verde.
NOGUEIRA, Gláucia (2005). O Tempo de B.Léza, documentos e memórias. Praia: IBNL.
Atelier de violão Aniceto Gomes, http://www.geocities.ws/aniceto_gomes/agomes .htm.
(Consulted on 31.12.2013)

Newspapers:
O Futuro de Cabo Verde | Diário de Lisboa

Discography:
Portuguese string music, Crawley, Interstate Music Ltd., 1989, 1 CD.
http://www.geocities.ws/aniceto_gomes/agomes.htm. (Consulted on 31.12.2013)
 

 

 

 

 

 
   
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