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Cape Verdean Carmen Souza and the Creole connection

By Alison Hird

Singer Carmen Souza was born to Cape Verdean parents in Portugal. Her latest album Creology mixes the Creole language and rhythms she learned at home with the jazz she's learned to love in Europe. She talks to RFI about conveying the joy of Creole culture and having fun imitating instruments with her unusual, beguiling voice.

Creology is Souza's eighth album and was co-written with her mentor and longtime musical partner Portuguese bass player Theo Pascal. They’ve worked together since her debut album Ess ê nha Cabo Verde was released in 2003.

Carmen Souza and Théo Pascal live at RFI. © Arnaud Contreras

She’s since become a leading light on the Cape Verdean musical scene, praised for her innovation in mixing rhythms like Batuque and Funana from Cabo Verde and other former Portuguese colonies like Angola, Mozambique and São Tomé, together with Afro-Brazilian and Cuban sounds.

The album takes us on the musical journey of her ancestors, travelling across continents and, as descendents of slaves, all the way to the shores of New Orleans.

“Creology expresses the joy of being creole and the joy of this mixture," Souza told RFI. "And basically celebrates the good we can do when we’re together.”

Her previous album Epistola was more explicitly jazz, but Creology has kept the spirit of vocal improvisation Souza loves and is so good at.

“I do sing in a different way because I think that I can express myself differently imitating instruments, either saxophone or trumpet," she adds.

"And also the Creole language gives me freedom to express [myself] differently. Because of the different accents from different islands, I can express more melodically or [in a] more staccato way. That gives me a lot of freedom to just go anywhere.”

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