There is no end to the treasures on that distant clutch of islands Cap Vert (Cape Verde) and Gabriela Mendes is the latest in a long line of traditional singers willing to share those riches far and wide. Traditional mornas, sweetly sung and gently accompanied by nimbly picked guitars are at the heart of these ten songs
Gabriela Mendes was born in 1973 in São Vicente. Her musician father emigrated abroad — like so many others — to work for his family and she remained with her mother, wistfully thinking of her missing father as the radio played the sad songs of longing for which the islands are so famous.
Her house was also full of musicians dropping in and practicing, while she also developed her voice as a leading chorister. Several years later, she would start singing in bars and festivals inspired by her love of traditional music. It is tempting to speculate that the church singing influenced her clear, bright vocal tones.
This collection stays close to the familiar rhythms and sounds made famous by her idol Cesaria Evora, but adds the fresh youth of her expressive voice to the mix. She is accompanied by a rich mix of percussive instruments and guitars, plus piano and accordion.
Within the form, she finds room for a wide range of tones from wistful to mischievous and upbeat to laid back. While songs such as ‘Pedra’ push the limits with jazz overtones, she is just as adept at adding new spice to traditional songs like ‘Curral ca tem capóde’.
A welcome addition to the handful of internationally known singers from Cap Vert.
Gabriela Mendes – Tradicão is out on Nocturne