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Ntoni Denti
Cape Verde/Batuque & Finašon
Ocora -France / via Harmonia Mundi - US

The islands of Cape Verde were uninhabited (although not unvisited) until the 1400's. At that time, Portuguese business people came to the island in hopes of creating a trade center and a commercial farming area, particularly for sugar. The islands proved intractable, and in an attempt to continue, the Portuguese turned to African slaves from the nearby coast to make their enterprises profitable. Around the 17th century many of the slaves began to move into the hills, where they maintained some of their African culture, while also bringing along what they liked of the Portuguese. It is in this situation that the music called batuque and finašon flourished and hid until the independence of the islands came in the 1970's.

Batuque means "to beat," and it is a percussive style based on a rhythm created by the beating of not only drums, but thick pieces of cloth held between the legs of the musician and beat with both hands. It is used for dancing and for the telling of musical stories (finašon, similar in purpose to the griots of western Africa). Historically this music was performed by women, but the contemporary form has been preserved by a man, Ntoni Denti D'Oro. He plays drum, accompanied by guitars, a female chorus and a cimboa (one-string fiddle) player named Manu Mende, who is said to be the last living player of the instrument in Cape Verde.

It's a wild form of music, full of double entendres dealing with sex, religion, politics and social order. Its distinct African and European elements each maintain a certain clarity, mixing to form unusual moments throughout the recording. D'Oro is not a traditionalist. He acknowledges his personal additions to the music, in fact revels in them, and it makes the whole experience all the more raucous and joyous. - CF

See also: Africa


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