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The music of Cape Verde

Just 500 kilometres off the coast of Senegal is Cape Verde, a cluster of 10 islands that are quickly making a name for themselves on the travel circuit and have an interesting blend of musical traditions.

Whichever island you choose to visit in Cape Verde, one thing is true of all of them – they are blessed with a distinct mix of cultures. This means that everything about the place is a mishmash of African, Portuguese and Brazilian influences, especially the music.

Cultural tones

This beautiful location is fast becoming known in neighbouring countries for its traditional genres, and it is true that music in Cape Verde is certainly unique.

As a cultural melting pot, Cape Verde offers an original combination of clarinet and violin music on one hand, with the twang of a small Portuguese guitar known as a cavaquinho on the other. So before you head out there, here's a rundown of some of the most famous musical genres found in Cape Verde.


Without a doubt the most popular type of music in Cape Verde, Morna is considered the national music of the islands.

Associated with international superstar Cesaria Evora, Morna has been compared to the Argentinian Tango for its passion, and its lyrics deal with love, patriotism and loss.

Morna is especially popular in Boa Vista, where it's thought to have originated. Stars like Evora, as well as composers Manuel de Novas and B Leza, still have their work covered today, performed at festivals and gigs all over Cape Verde.

You'll see Morna generally performed by a solo musician, or possibly in a duet, with an instrumental accompaniment. Among the instruments used in this music are guitar, bass, violin and piano, as these are the most expressive instruments, able to communicate a huge range of emotions.


Funana is predominantly played on the accordion, and has recently become popular among electronic and rhythm & bass artists looking for samples for their songs.

Before Cape Verde's independence, this type of music was disliked by the colonial authorities but today people celebrate it as a liberating genre, and dance excitedly together at festivals to the fast-paced tunes.

If you like what you hear then Santiago, where this music started, will have you covered in all things Funana.


For a positive fiesta of dance and song, Calodeira is the genre to go for. The two-beat bars mean an upbeat shuffle on the drums, plus there's often a chorus of singers chanting catchy hooks which are difficult to resist singing along to.

The music deals with happy and playful themes, often being quite satirical lyrically. All round, this is a feel-good genre that is great for parties.


Batuque is a fascinating style of music that was originally only sung by women.

The lyrics were harshly satirical and critical of culture, sung solo without instrumental accompaniment. The singer's voice would cut through the sounds of the day, delivering important social messages straight from the heart.

In the 1980s, this music was revived in pop circles by singers like Orlando Pantera, but it would be difficult to recognise the influence of the original style in modern songs.

Today, it's only really performed in Santiago, although there are some who say it was once found on every island in Cape Verde.

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