Music is embedded in Cape Verdean culture so, no matter what they’re commemorating, you’d better get those dancing shoes on.
The Portuguese were the first settlers on this once-uninhabited archipelago and their musical influences – along with Brazilian sounds – are still found here.
As the floats go by you’ll be serenaded by the national music, Morna. Passionate and melancholic, it’s usually led by a guitarist and singer, and is similar in rhythm to Portuguese Fado music.
The carnivals are staggered throughout the year with a few in high season, while most of the islands, including Sal and Boa Vista, have a carnival in February, close to Ash Wednesday. As the weather is fantastic all year around, February is as good a time as any to visit.
If you take your party spirit and sense of rhythm with you, Cape Verde will provide the cachupa stew and plenty of the local alcoholic beverage, grogue.
You’ll find two of Sal’s most famous festivals at the end of the UK’s summer season. Both religious and non religious people can enjoy the celebrations and experience the true Cape Verdean spirit.
Nossa Sra. De Piedade – Our Lady of Pity Day – August
This day-long celebration begins with a morning Mass – as most of the religious festivals do – in Santa Maria’s church, followed by a colourful procession with music. It eventually ends up at the beach.
Taking your shoes off you can feel the sand against your feet as the real party begins with live music and even swimming races.
Santa Maria Music Festival – September
The Santa Maria Music Festival, also known as Municipality Day, is part of the celebration of Sal’s patron saint and takes place over a weekend.
Held on Santa Maria’s palm-lined sandy beach, it’s a chance for local bands and singers to perform. This great event has an eclectic range of music influenced by Cape Verde’s Portuguese, Brazilian and African connections. Many people camp out as the sun goes down, and gather around bonfires that light up the night’s sky.
Boa Vista pulls out all the stops at these fun-filled festivals, expect locals and tourists alike to fully take advantage of the music, food and atmosphere.
Festival of Santa Isabel – July
Santa Isabel is the patron saint here and this well-organised festivity pulls in the crowds from other islands and further afield, with traditional live music, crafts and food stalls, horse racing, a public ball, and a colourful procession.
Festival of Music of Praia d’Cruz – August
Held in Boa Vista’s capital Sal Rei, this festival goes on for a couple of days. Boa Vista musicians kick off the proceedings on a main stage located on a gorgeous sandy beach, while famous musicians from across Cape Verde and abroad also descend on the festival.
Other festivals across the islands
Both Santiago and Soa Vicente also host important Cape Verdean festivals, if you’re holidaying here this summer, you’ll want to check these out.
Gambio Festival – May
Santiago is the largest island in the archipelago and this festival attracts national and international artists, who descend on the beach in the capital city Praia. The three days of partying involves plenty of salsa and Latino music to get your feet tapping.
Baia das Gatas – August
Named after the village, Baia das Gatas means ‘abundance of catfish’. This is one of the biggest musical festivals in west Africa, held on a Baia das Gatas beach over the long full-moon weekend in August.