In Mindelo, Anisito Gómez forms the music of Cape Verde

In the Monte Sossego district, just behind the Mindelo City Cemetery, the Aniceto Gomes workshop is an institution. In this fairly quiet area, away from the bustle of downtown, only the sound of hammer, saw, chisels and the constantly turning old radio permeates the life of the little alley. This melody is accompanied by the aromas of resin and wax. In his workshop, Aniceto Gomez manipulates the wooden structures of his futuristic creations, wearing as usual his blue jumpsuit and a thick pearl necklace.

I’ve been building tools for nearly forty years »hoarsely, a man in his fifties from the island of Sao Tome and his mother Cape Verde. I left school at the age of fifteen to become a carpenterluthier continues, But I could not find a place to train. Then I met Maestre Baptista, who invited me to a Lutheran workshop where he taught his five sons the art of building tools. » Meeting Maestre Baptista, one of Cape Verde’s most respected miniatures, changed his life. on his death master – master In 1997, Aniceto opened his own workshop in his mother’s house, where he still works.

Several passersby stopped in front of the workshop, which opens onto the street, to greet Anisito and the two young men he is training. Manira Todret ? » ( How are you ? »Discussions take place, but they do not stop the subtle and methodical gestures of the three men. After the information in the Creole language, the musical program resumes on the small radio and accompanies this scene.

The town of Cesaria Évora

In Mindelo, the second city in the country after the capital, Praia, music is found on every street corner. Cozy bars with concerts Morna To the rehearsals of the percussion orchestras of the Grand Carnival, passing through patukada In the region of Ribeira Bote and morning frantic of Funana In Cruz, these fast accordion music danced together at the traditional festivals of Kula Sangon – the city considered the country’s cultural capital – offers music lovers an endless number of options. A popular saying says that for ten Mindelenses, there are eleven musicians.

No wonder Mindelo is also the birthplace of Cesaria Evora. there “ barefoot singer Introduce the world to Cape Verdean music and Morna. This style of music, listed by UNESCO in 2019 as the Intangible Heritage of Humanity, tells Soda, which is a mixture of sadness and nostalgia, but also of attachment to these ten lost islands in the Atlantic. slow and gentle, the Morna It is always accompanied by a cavaquinho, a four-stringed steel guitar that has made a prestige for guitarists in the archipelago.

Skeletons of cavaquinhos crowned in the workshop. It’s the #1 selling tool by Anisito and his team.

© Justin Carrett

This is the most I achieve heresays Aniceto Gomez, one hand resting on a wooden frame he sands. Cavaquinho originated from Portugal. But it is different here. The body of the Cape Verde cavaquinho is slightly wider and has a different tuning. » The sound of this small instrument is also perfect to accompany the coladera or samba, two musical styles popular in the archipelago. We sell a lot of cavaquinhos internationally since the success of Cesária موسيقى music [Évora]asserts Aniceto, pointing to different types of tools, You have highlighted our expertise. »

a “ essential tool The struggle for liberation

Prior to its export, Cape Verdean music was based on a mixture of different cultures and very diverse influences. The archipelago, colonized by Portugal in 1462, was an important place for the slave trade. Cape Verdeans were subjected to the colonial yoke until 1975, and they developed their own language, music, and tools. Amilcar Cabral, founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape VerdePAIGC) who fought for the independence of these two countries1In his writings, he emphasized the role that culture should play in decolonization struggles. This revolutionary activist, who was one of the greatest African thinkers of liberation and liberation, wrote that the use of violence by the colonial authorities was aimed at The destruction of cultural life, or at least its neutralization and paralysis »And the As long as a part of these people has a cultural life, the continuation of foreign domination cannot be guaranteed ». Domination can only continue Through the permanent and systematic suppression of the cultural life of the persons concerned »2.

In Cape Verde, the practice of batok and funana, two traditional musical genres, was particularly vulnerable to repression during the colonial era: these songs and dances were also considered “ African and seditious by the authorities. For Cabral, as for Frantz Fanon, culture is not Just an artifact, an aesthetic expression, a custom, or a tradition. It is a means by which people assert their opposition to domination, a means of proclaiming their humanity and inventiveness, and a means of asserting power to act and power to make history. », writes Firuz Manji, a Kenyan activist and writer who has studied the ideas of Amilcar Cabral. for him, Culture is one of the basic tools in the struggle for liberation »3.

Today, the liberation movement launched by Amilcar Cabral has been renamed PAICV4, still occupies an important place in the political life of Cape Verde. Since 1990 and the establishment of a multiparty system, the party that led to the country’s independence has shared power with the Movement for Democracy (MpD), which brings together liberals from the center-right. At the end of 2021, Jose Maria Neves, leader PAICVwas elected president and continued the tradition by cohabiting with his MpD prime minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, at the head of the small island nation.

Cabral’s ideas continue to influence cultural and political life in Cape Verde. Even exiles abroad, many artists from the archipelago choose to continue to sing criollo (Creole) or be accompanied by traditional instruments to continue proudly displaying these signs of Cape Verdean culture. Such is the case of singer Mayra Andrade, who grew up in Praia and whose music now radiates all over the world. This is also the case for batok, a musical style that was invented by slaves and is still played with pride on some islands.

Keep working Mister Baptista »

In Aniceto’s studio, in Monte Sossego, portraits installed on the fresco wall testify to the many musicians who came to visit him. Look, here’s Bao, one of Cape Verde’s greatest artists », fires Aniceto as he walks towards the back of his studio. The genius guitarist and cavaquin player, Rufino Almeida (better known as “ bao He was Cesária Évora’s first music director before embarking on a solo career. He is also the son of the famous Lothair Mister Baptista, the same person who formed Aniceto. It’s an honor to work with these artists »Aniceto is proud. “ I also made a guitar for Gipsy Kings in 2006 when they came to the workshop »adds luthier, holding a photo that has been slightly damaged over time showing him alongside the popular flamenco band.

At Mindelo, the tools of the luthier passed into the hands of the greatest artists. I met Aniceto in the ’90s when he was still a student of Mestre Baptista »says Jose Carlos Prieto, the pseudonym “ Fuji », a reference in Cape Verdean music that also accompanied Cesaria Evora on guitar on his tours abroad. Mestre Baptista has continued with the same guarantee of quality. It is no coincidence that I got a musical instrument from his workshop. It’s a guitar that he built specifically for me, and I use it a lot in my concerts. »to remember “ Fuji Who still lives in Mindelo.

Romer works every day in the studio. He was trained by Aniceto Gomes and makes various stringed instruments.

© Justin Carrett

Behind the cemetery and workshop of Aniceto Gomes, a long road leaves town in the direction of Calhau to the east of the island of São Vicente. The landscape is hostile and meager, and agriculture is almost non-existent in this region where it rarely rains. Between 1946 and 1948, a series of droughts and famines claimed more than 20 lives % of Cape Verdean population. Archipelago musicians also recount these traumas and try to placate a nation suffering from slavery, colonialism and climate change. We sing about traditions, beautiful sandy beaches and morabizaan untranslatable Creole word in French used to describe the sweetness of life and the hospitality of the locals.

permanent hybridization

Trees are rare in these volcanic lands located 600 km from the Senegalese coast. Aniceto Gomes imports mahogany, pine or plank from all over the world to build these tools. Madagascar, India, Spain, Portugal… It is impossible to find wood in Cape VerdeLuthier explains. We import everything. Certain instruments such as the violin are very difficult to make because the wood and materials needed to build it are very expensive to import. Therefore, we focus on other things: ten-string guitars, mandolins, banjos, cavaquinhos… We make up for our expertise and creativity. »

In the workshop, Friedson and Roemer, two young men who grew up in Mindelo, focus on their assignments. Dressed in business clothes like their boss, they carefully form the futuristic cavaquinhos. I’ve trained them for several yearsAniseto says, It is important to pass on this knowledge to the younger generations as Mestre Baptista did for me. It is part of our culture, and it should not be lost. »

A small room next to the workshop allows Anisito and his team to display their work. An affordable selection of traditional instruments such as cavaquinhos as well as more modern guitars with built-in amplifiers. In forty years, many things have changed in Cape Verde, and my business is developing. Our culture continues to mix with encounters, people who come and go from the archipelago, and our music is enriched while preserving its history. »the artisan shoots, playing a few notes on the guitar.

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