'Synthesize The Soul' Offers A Perfectly Paced Dance Party

May 16, 2017
Originally published on May 16, 2017 10:57 am
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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Music critic Milo Miles has a review of a new collection of synthesizer dance music from the Cape Verde Islands recorded in the '70s and '80s. He says the music sweeps you up with energy and rhythm and reveals an international modernism not well known outside Cape Verde.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILO MILES, BYLINE: Popular music anthologies that collect a span of various performers can deliver a special revelation. They can uncover a whole world of music through an inspired selection of tracks expertly programmed. The retrospective collection "Synthesize The Soul" is subtitled "Astro-Atlanta Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988," which sounds to me like a direct echo of the landmark garage rock "Nuggets" anthology from 1972. "Synthesize The Soul" will not make pop history like "Nuggets," but it's as much a surprise and a perfectly paced seductive dance party.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "E BO PROBLEMA")

TCHISS LOPES: (Singing in foreign language).

MILES: Among those who know any performers from Cape Verde, the late singer Cesaria Evora dominates massively. One might easily think her languorous, often melancholy form called Morna was the only soundtrack to Cape Verde. But like Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, Evora sounded like a carefully packaged artifact of pre-electric popular song.

The fundamental surprise of "Synthesize The Soul" is that long before the international audience discovered Evora, the young hot shots on the islands and Verde immigrants in Europe were cranking up the amps and enjoying hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABYLON 79")

AMERICO BRITO: (Singing in foreign language).

MILES: The music on "Synthesize The Soul" did not have an agreed-on name, but I would vote for funana fusion. The style called funana flourished in the African-oriented island of Santiago, where it was played on accordions and much frowned upon by Portuguese colonial authorities. This would not be the only instance in which peppy roots music adapted remarkably well to synthesizers and electric guitars.

A host of Cape Verde expats working in Lisbon, Paris and Providence, R.I., among other locations, all contributed to the course of this eclectic style. No accident though that the player on the cover of the set is multi-instrumentalist and arranger Paulino Vieira, an enigmatic figure who is involved in more than half the tracks on "Synthesize The Soul," such as this one, "Bo Ta Cool."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BO TA COOL")

JOVINO DOS SANTOS: (Singing in foreign language).

MILES: And a final surprise from this collection, it turns out that Vieira was bandleader for Cesaria Evora during her breakout period in the '90s and the architect of her first international score, "Sodade." So Cape Verdean music, no matter the style or the location of the players, suggests tight island relationships. A salute to "Synthesize The Soul" compiler Vik Sohoni for properly presenting adventurous unknowns and making them sound almost essential.

(SOUNDBITE OF CABO VERDE SHOW'S "NOVA COLADEIRA")

GROSS: Milo Miles reviewed the new collection of music from the Cape Verde Islands called "Synthesize The Soul." On the next FRESH AIR on the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "Give Us The Ballot" speech. We talk about voting rights and restrictions with Ari Berman, senior contributing writer at The Nation and author of the book "Give Us The Ballot." We'll discuss President Trump's new election integrity commission, voter ID laws in the 2016 election, recent rulings in the Supreme Court and lower courts on voting restrictions and why voting rights have become a partisan issue. I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.