Cape Verdean singer Elida Almeida returns with a fourth album, Gerasonobu, in which she confirms her status as the leader of the new generation of musicians in Cape Verde.
At the age of 27, Elida Almeida already stands out, with her honeyed smile and solar energy, as youthful as she is mature, as the muse of Cape Verde’s new musical generation. She deploys this status like a banner and inscribes it on the front of her new album, entitled Gerasonobu (“New Generation” in Cape Verdean Creole). Together with other fellow musicians, the young woman, whose roots lie on the island of Santiago, is helping to explode the codes of Cape Verdean music: a tradition illuminated by the guardian figure of Cesaria Evora, jealously watched over by so-called “experts”, who grumble as soon as one takes a (dance) step outside the norm. But Elida is not satisfied: “Even Cesaria’s creations are different from ‘traditional’ pieces. The music of my archipelago of sailors, open to all winds, permeable to all influences, all crossbreeding, is defined precisely by its permanent evolution…”.
So, unlike her last record, which takes its name, Kebrada, from her native village, and roots on the small piece of land without electricity that saw her grow up, she now travels the world, all the way out to feed her newly traced tracks. In her luggage? The Cape Verdean songs that rocked her early years on the radio. Gerasonobu’s wandering songs were composed all over the world, during tours, in the semi-awakened dream of an airplane trip to Lisbon where she lives, or to Abidjan… “Each time, my creations, in the heart of Cape Verde, were impregnated with the vibrations and music of the territories in which I wrote them”, she smiles.
To give her songs a more “urban” texture, Elida has surrounded herself with her partner in crime, the Cape Verdean multi-instrumentalist and producer Hernani Almeida, as well as the DJ, producer and musician, hero of Kenya’s new guard, Blinky Bill.
On her songs, as many calls for swaying dances, as many poems with a strong temperament, Elida tells her peers, her generation, and also gives herself away. In Amizadi Novu, for instance, she gently mocks the 2000 generation, the superficial friendships made on social networks, the futile attitudes produced by Instagram or Snapchat. In Sai Bu Sai, she denounces in the strongest possible terms the domestic violence suffered by women who die every day from beatings… In Tolobaska, accompanied by the beat of an electro-coloured heartbeat, she sings of the deep, so natural love that two souls feel when they fall in love. In Mudjei, she honours all the women of her country: those who sell fish in the markets, but also secretaries, lawyers, pilots…
And then, Elida becomes more intimate, and dives into her personal history, which resonates with the whole of humanity. In Nha Bilida, for instance, on the electro-afro beats of Blinky Bill, she talks about her child, born when she was only 16 years old: “For me, being pregnant so young was panic! In this title, I tell my son that I was afraid to touch him… He was so small, so fragile! But when I lay down beside him, he was so calm…I felt protected. His sigh, his heartbeat put me to sleep peacefully. »
Finally, in the so sweet and melancholy coladera, Obrigadu Papa, she honours her father, who died too soon, for his eight years. Again, I created this song on an airplane,” she says. When I started writing it, I started crying… to the end. In this song, I’m talking about the day people told me she died. I especially wanted to tell him that my brothers, sisters and I had grown up… I don’t know if he would have been proud of us, but I thank him for giving us life…”.
And then, on all her tracks, Elida honours, dances and sings her little country, through the joyful and magical celebration of all its rhythms, figures and myths. So Gerasonobu, entirely in Cape Verdean Creole, the language she carries like a treasure, opens on Bidibido, a “tabanca” from Santiago, this festive musical genre, which has now almost disappeared. With her joyful ease, she revisits the style and summons the “Bidibido”, that ragged and repulsive folk character who used to arrive at Cinza, on Ash Wednesday, a Lenten day with a taste of cane honey and couscous, to terrorize the children, before laughing with them…
Finally, she delivers an explosive funana, the style born in her village, with Mundu Kabu Kaba, a cover of her idols, the singers of modern funana, Bulimumdo. “I give it a new colour, thanks to Hernani Almeida’s contemporary arrangements,” she says, proud to be part of this heritage.
In 2015, the singer’s first hit was entitled Nta Konsigui, “I will succeed”. Five years later, Elida can claim to have fulfilled her prophecy, and a long way down the road, by making her contribution to the edifice of Cape Verdean music. Above all, she still keeps alive, in her heart and in her art, the essence of the little girl she was, dancing and singing in her village, with a mad love for music and the pulse of her land. As a metaphor of her archipelago, an incarnation of the present time, an emblem of her generation.
Text by Anne-Laure Lemancel