Lura: Songstress of Cape Verde
Kissed by the lips of fate, Lura has evolved over the past fifteen years from her initial splash into the waters of world music. Her alluring Cape Verdean sound, produced with the help of musical director, Toy Vieira, enchanted the nearly full house at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on December 14th.
Backed by a four-piece band, Lura sang a total of 15 songs with her Creole-gifted voice. Her music reflected the influences of her parents’ homeland of Cape Verde, tinged with passionate Spanish flamenco along with traces of the melancholic Portuguese fado that surrounded her during her formative years growing up in Lisbon, Portugal.
Cape Verde, colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century, celebrates Independence Day on July 5th, having achieved sovereignty in 1975. The ten small volcanic islands dotting the Atlantic Ocean 400 miles west of Senegal, in West Africa, are less populous than Minneapolis and St. Paul combined. Despite a population of less than half a million, the cultural mark that Cape Verdeans have made on the rest of the world is significant.
Cape Verde’s music, reflecting a mix of Portuguese and West African roots, can now boast of their newest light on the horizon. As beautiful to watch as she is to listen to, Lura seduced her audience with a deceptive innocence. Gyrating, she radiates her Congolese dance moves from her hips sending ripples out through her long slender arms. Wearing a two-piece, orange and ginger outfit, Lura warmed the audience with a stunning smile, despite the bright spotlights, her doe-like eyes connected with the onlookers, seated only a few feet away. Her English, though fluent, was not expressed comfortably. She sang in Creole-Portuguese.
Lura, not only danced and sang to her audience, but she also played several indigenous instruments to their delight. As she performed one of her songs "M Bem De Fora", Lura flashed a ferrinho, a piece of metal, resting it on her shoulder and scraping it with a butter knife. The sound was subtle, but the visual effect of watching Lura playfully flit an eating utensil added to her appeal.
After a moving mazurka number, Lura sat down on the steps of the stage. She placed a navy cushion between her bent knees. I almost expected her to transform into a mid-wife and explain the importance of Kegel exercises. Instead, more appropriately, as the band began playing "Ponciana," Lura patted a rhythm on her batuku.
"The women in Cape Verde spend a lot of time together, working and talking and that is how batuku started; from the women of Santiago," said Lura. "Now I and others are making a kind of batuku, but singing alone, not in a group. I’m a little representation of batuku from Cape Verde."
Originally, a dozen or more women would beat the batuku rhythm on folded stacks of clothes held by their knees, while a lead singer improvised poetry lampooning community happenings. Ponciana segued nicely into "Camim Di Bo Sorriso" (Wedding of Corrineas).
"It’s a song about a woman who was to marry a wealthy immigrant from Holland, but fell in-love with a poor boy from Cape Verde," said Lura. “She got pregnant ending her mother’s dreams."
This song was a mesmerizing lament, most reminiscent of the fados for which Portugal is known. My own lament: that I did not take the time to pick up her latest CD, Di Korpu Ku Alma, tempered by the fact that many of her songs are available on the web. If I don’t mind sticking to my computer, I can listen to her inviting music as often as I want.
Susan is based in Minneapolis and reports on general assignments for Mshale with a focus on entertainment.
In addition to reporting, she is also a writer, poet, teacher and coach.