Lucibela Channels The Joy Of Cape Verde On 'Laço Umbilical'

Apr 23, 2018
Originally published on April 24, 2018 9:51 am

The islands of the Cape Verde are notoriously barren, yet they've produced some of West Africa's most enchanting singers. Ever since the death of diva Cesária Évora in 2011, fans have been waiting for another Cape Verdean singer with sublime poise and emotional power. We may have found her in Lucibela, a 32-year-old singer with a truly magnificent voice, liquid and effortless across a wide vocal range. Lucibela's debut album Laço Umbilical is a joyful celebration of her homeland.

Some songs on the album, like "Chica di Nha Maninha" for example, are mornas; distinctly Cape Verdean ballads with the melancholy of Portuguese fado and a gentle lilt more akin to Brazilian or Afro-Caribbean music. Longing and sorrow — sodade, as the locals call it — is a fact of life on these beautiful islands, where droughts and scarcity have forced so many to seek fortunes far away.

For all the separation and hardship they've endured, Cape Verdeans are ardent dancers and celebrators, evidenced in coladera, the other bright, buoyant local music showcased on Lucibela's album.

The charm of Cape Verdean music is this alluring alchemy of joy and wistfulness. Lucibela knows this all too well. When she was just out of high school, Lucibela's widowed mother died and she made her living singing in tourist hotels. Before she turned to mornas and coladeras, Lucibela sang jazz, rock and Brazilian bossa nova. Lucibela even incorporated bossa nova into her debut.

These days, Lucibela lives in Lisbon, Portugal — yet another Cape Verdean lured away from her beloved home. But as her album title, Laço Umbilical, suggests, there's an umbilical cord that keeps her connected to her home country and it's evident in every note on this gorgeous debut.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The islands of the Cape Verde archipelago are notoriously barren, yet they have produced some of West Africa's most enchanting singers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHICA DI NHA MANINHA")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese).

CHANG: That's vocalist Lucibela, who recently released her first album. Banning Eyre has a review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHICA DI NHA MANINHA")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese).

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Ever since the death of legendary diva Cesaria Evora in 2011, the world has been waiting for another Cape Verdean singer with her sublime poise and emotional power. We may have just found her in Lucibela, a 32-year-old with a truly magnificent voice, liquid and effortless across a wide vocal range.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHICA DI NHA MANINHA")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese).

EYRE: This is a morna. It's a distinctly Cape Verdean ballad with the melancholy of Portuguese fado and a gentle lilt more akin to Brazil or the African Caribbean.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHICA DI NHA MANINHA")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese).

EYRE: Longing, melancholy - sodade, as the locals call it - is a fact of life on these beautiful islands where droughts and scarcity have forced so many to seek fortunes far away.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUCIBELA SONG, "MAL AMADU")

EYRE: For all the separation and hardship they've endured, Cape Verdeans are driven to dance and celebrate, and that brings us to the other local music showcased on this album, coladera.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAL AMADU")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese).

EYRE: The charm of Cape Verdean music is this alluring alchemy of joy and wistfulness, and Lucibela has lived it. When she was just out of high school, her widowed mother died, and she made her living singing in tourist hotels.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUCIBELA SONG, "VIOLEIRO")

EYRE: Before she turned to mornas and coladeras, Lucibela sang jazz and rock and Brazilian bossa nova, a style she still performs today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIOLEIRO")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese).

EYRE: These days, Lucibela lives in Lisbon, yet another Cape Verdean lured away from her beloved home. But as the album title "Laco Umbilical" suggests, there is an umbilical cord that keeps her connected, and it's evident in every note on this gorgeous debut.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUCIBELA SONG, "LACO UMBILICAL")

CHANG: That's Banning Eyre, senior producer for Afropop Worldwide.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LACO UMBILICAL")

LUCIBELA: (Singing in Portuguese). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.