Album Review: Synthesize The Soul, Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Islands 1973 – 1988 [Ostinato Records, 24th February 2017]

Last year’s Analog Africa compilation (Legend of Funana) brought the tiny islands to our attention as an influential musical force. Now, Ostinato Records release an 18-track compilation showcasing how Cape Verdean musicians and producers incorporated electronic sounds into their traditional, indigenous rhythms of funana in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Under Portuguese colonial rule until 1975, vast numbers of islanders migrated in search of better social and economic opportunities. Lisbon, Rotterdam, Rome, and the US saw an influx – working by day and playing funana music to friends and family at night – sharing their cultural experience in their adopted homeland.

The influence of western rock, funk, and disco twinned with the availability of new keyboards and synthesizer’s, led to experimentation that drove the pollination and evolution which created the tracks found on this album.

Part protest, part celebratory, this is predominantly high octane, upbeat music – the sound that dominated the dance halls and floors of the Cape Verde diaspora. Kicking off with Nhu De Ped Bia’s ‘Nós Criola’, it’s insistent ferrinho, and electronic keyboard flourishes, you know this music wants you to dance when it’s followed by the galloping rhythm of Pedrinho’s ‘Nanda’.

A driving 4/4 beat is a common theme running through much of this collection – forward looking and pioneering, this was the sound of Cape Verdean immigrants creating a modern, life-affirming soundtrack to a new life, in a new country.

When the pace drops to give breathing space, these songs exhibit a more straight up funana feel that allows the influences of West African and Latin rhythms, to shine through on Dionisio Maio’s ‘Mie Fogo.’

Responsible for propelling Cape Verdean music into new directions, were the Cabo Verde Show, based in Dakar, influenced by African, Caribbean rhythms, and recording in France, the track ‘Nova Coladeira,’ is evidence of the key role the band played in influencing a generation of musicians who came to be associated with zouk.

Refreshing, pulsating and rhythmic, Ostinato Records have unearthed a bunch of sonic gems that have been hidden from us for too long – this music demands your attention – and that of your headphones and speakers!