Emotion lives at the heart of all Cesaria’s music, whether old or new, and it doesn’t matter whether you call it mornas or ‘Verdean blues’, it obviously shares affinities with Portuguese fado, both in style and content. There’s always that longing and nostalgia for something, not something other, but something familiar, usually the past, youth, a romanticized era that may or may not have ever existed. For it is not a longing meant to be fulfilled, but a longing that is a way of life, as if our expanding universe allowed us only to look back from where we came, never to where we are going. It’s cozier that way. Personally I prefer Cesaria’s style over the sometimes over-dramatic fado, more like a ‘folksy fado.’
For this album, in addition to local musicians Cesaria includes tracks recorded in
If the album starts out a bit meandering with the aptly-titled ‘Serpentina’ it quickly gets right back on track with ‘Verde Cabo di Nhas Odjos’ (‘Green Cape of My Eyes’) obviously a play on Cape/Cabo Verde’s name and an invocation of ‘greenness’ as a symbol of hope, ‘verde vida, verde sonho… verde verde manha’ (‘green the life, green the dream… a green green tomorrow’), and when coupled with ‘Esperanca di Mar Azul’ (‘Hope of the Blue Sea’) becomes a one-two punch of synesthesia, color evoking emotion and vice versa, establishing hope as a positive counterweight to the more prevalent melancholy. Chanting ‘vento di norte, vento di sul’ (‘northern winds, southern winds’) Nature’s malleability thus offers much of the reason for that hope. The third song ‘Vento de Sueste’ (‘The Southeasterly Wind’) continues right in that vein, lilting sad and nostalgic- ‘innocencia foi grande… curacao fica isolado’, (‘my innocence was great… my heart remains isolated/an island’), a nice play on words. ‘Ligereza’ bats clean-up and by now we’re firmly on Cesaria’s turf- ‘amor ta va, amor ta vem’ (‘love comes and goes’), unrepentantly philosophical.
From there on it’s all downhill and down to business. If the album flirts a bit with almost-too-slick over-production at first, ‘Zinha’ shifts gears into some nice brassy no-nonsense up-tempo Latin jazz, to be taken up again on ‘Tchom Frio’ and ‘Holandesa co Certeza’, interspersed with Cesaria’s more typical ballads. Last but not least is ‘Parceria e Irmandade’ (‘Partnership and Brotherhood’), apparently a throwaway track that barely made the lineup, but for my money maybe the best track on the whole album, both philosophical AND up-tempo, haunting and beautiful and carrying an important message, i.e. that closeness among family and friends is not only more important than wealth, but is also a source of it. Maybe a bit angry and even more determined, this stands in contrast to much of the more passive content of many of her other songs, and seems to sum up much of what Cesaria’s life has been all about, overcoming poverty with dignity. I can’t get it out of my head. I hope it’s not her swan song.
There are enough similarities to other Portuguese-language music here to make a Chomskyite go running back to his textbooks, but there are many other things that are just Cesaria, unique and inimitable. That’s “Nha Sentimento.” Check it out.