The batuque is probably, among the genres that have reached us, the most original testimony of the musical expression of the Cape Verdean people, transmitted from the cultures of the original African tribes to the Creole nation that was being molded.
Tolerated only by the colonizing elites, for being considered “plebeian”, the batuque, closely linked to the family parties of weddings and baptisms, reveals the important role of a channel of psychophysical expression of the creative vitality and social construction that it had throughout the five centuries of nation-building.
A feminine musical genre
The batuque is a feminine musical genre, interpreted by groups of women who, seated, mark the rhythm by percussing “enchumaços” that hang on the lap and sing, while others clap, and others give themselves to a frenetic dance, whose climax, induced by the “chabeta” (acceleration of the rhythm of the beats) is “da ku torno”, and consists of the dancers only moving their feet, to get the effect of the intense tremor of the buttocks, while describing a slow movement of rotation, or they are bending slowly until the knees bend completely, getting up again in a continuous and slow movement.
The show tends to convey to the participating community a climate of mysticism in which trance episodes sometimes arise. Each musical phrase of the batuque is initiated by a soloist and retaken by the group and can evolve in two moments: the “sambuna” (of merely rhythmic and playful themes) and the “finaçon” (in which existential themes are improvised, with reference to characters that are pointed out as positive or negative examples).
It is worth mentioning that in the 19th century the batuque was accompanied by some instruments, among which the flutes, guitars and cymbals are mentioned.
The awareness of the profound authenticity of this musical genre has led to the proliferation, especially on the island of Santiago, of groups of young “batucadeiras”, taking this genre outside the rural world to which it was traditionally limited.
Nha Nácia Gomi (Inácia Gomes), a traditional batuque interpreter, recorded a CD that will remain in the memory of the older generations of batucadeiras. Others, such as Nha Bibinha Cabral or Nha Guida Mendi, have already died, but young women’s groups such as Pó di Terra or Terrero emerged as a link with the new generations, and certainly enrich this genre of genuine musical culture.
The composer Orlando Pantera, who died in 2001 at the age of 30, left a vast work allowing this revitalization of the batuque, performed by artists in full swing as Lura, Tcheka or Mayra Andrade.