In São Paulo

What do you do when a Lisbon-dwelling Cape Verdean makes her Brazilian debut? Send along a Brummie to cover it, of course...

By Martin Longley

If São Paulo can often be a chaotic blur of dense traffic, bustling crowds and towering rows of concrete matter, there is certainly one aspect of its daily life which is always hyper-organised. The city boasts sixteen Sescs in its central and outlying areas: arts centres which enjoy bursting programmes of music, theatre, cinema and art exhibitions, often allied to a dual usage of gym and swimming pool facilities, plus the usual workshop programme expected of such cultural bastions. Most often, they're architecturally interesting to boot, and entrance fees are always well-priced, even when bearing in mind the nation's subjective economy.
On Friday night, the Cape Verdean singer Lura was in town, playing the first of two shows. She's already made several UK visits, but this was her debut performance in Brazil. Surprising, given that the Cape Verdean islanders speak Portuguese, or at least Kriolu, which is a kinda equivalent concept to the descendant lingo of French-speaking Creole.
I've caught Lura a couple of times in the last two years, and on this occasion she's become noticeably more assured in her stage-craft. Those other occasions were shorter sets of an hour or under, but this gig stretched out over ninety minutes, heralding the appearance of the singer's new album next month. As with its predecessor, M'bem di Flora (I've Come From Far Away) will be released on the Paris-based Lusafrica label. Lura is set to be the inheritor of Cesaria Evora's crown, now that the grand old dame of Cape Verde is getting older, and cutting down on her trademark fags'n'booze. The producer of Evora's last album is indeed, also the producer of Lura's new disc.
Clad in a fresh dress with an unusual print that could be either sliced fruit or rolls of film, Lura is mostly sophisticated, but soon reveals a tendency to shake her butt unselfconsciously, in the traditional African manner. She's dignified, yet also prone to a humorous wink at the audience, possessing star quality without any attendant arrogance.
The Lura voice gets better all the time, its range going both high and deep, when called for, powerfully soaring in front of a band that features articulate acoustic guitar and violin soloists, supported by piano, percussion, bass and drums. In-between songs, Lura explains the origins of the traditional Cape Verdean styles of funana, bataque and mazurka, all of which are updated via a filtration through the global-pop language.
Such old traditions often spring from the female side of the community, so Lura updates the communal washroom singalong by slapping a cushion that's clasped between her knees, emulating the percussive sound of cloth-bundles played by the gathered women workers. She also scrapes her kitchen knife up and down a metal strip, showing further roots in domestic music.
Upon repeated hearing, Lura's songs are rather catchy, with numbers such as Vazulina and Na Ri Na already ensconced as anthemic singalongs. As the global music scene looks ever to the horizon for potential crossover stars, Lura is set to reap rewards from that communicative appeal, whilst managing to retain the essence of Cape Verde's folkloric music. And she actually lives in Lisbon..!
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