Theses defended

Músicas e Danças Europeias do Século XIX em Cabo Verde: Percurso de uma Apropriação

Gláucia Nogueira

Public Defence date
November 12, 2020
Doctoral Programme
Heritages of Portuguese Influence
Carlos Sandroni e António Sousa Ribeiro
Practices of music and dance that were forms of entertainment in Europe in the 19th Century spread across the world following the paths set by colonialism. The Portuguese colony Cape Verde received these influences from various directions. Coming from the capital as would be expected, but also directly from a number of other countries, since the position of the archipelago in the Atlantic favoured contact with other peoples by maritime routes. Two sources were important in the entry of these songs and dances: the USA, where a Cape Verdean community has maintained strong links with their native land since the 19th Century; and Brazil, with which Cape Verde maintained, in the period in question, contacts favouring a cultural influence that has left its marks in the islands. In both cases the songs and dances that Cape Verde received are already local versions of European forms. Whatever their immediate provenance, these songs, originally played and danced in elite dance halls, by musicians who only frequented these wealthy salons because they were needed to provide entertainment at parties, ended up being appropriated by these guitar players and fiddlers, acquiring local features in the process. At the same time, through these musicians they passed from the salon to the backyard, or in other words they spread among the lower social classes. Waltzes, polkas, gallops, mazurkas and schottisches, were what were danced during the first decades of the 20th Century in Cape Verde, along with Brazilian sambas and maxixes, and the morna which was establishing itself as the popular musical form, so successfully that it became an emblem of Cape-Verdean identity. On the other hand, as a group dance there was the contradança or quadrille. But starting in the middle of the 20th Century, this conjunction of musical and choreographic practices gave way to new fashions in public taste, and many of these forms disappeared from most people's memory. These songs and dances remained in obscurity for about three decades, until after the independence of Cape Verde, when the policies of the new government tried to give more value to these traditions - among others - which then became viewed as part of the cultural heritage of the country. The purpose of the present work is to follow and discuss the trajectory of these forms, from when they arrived in the Cabo Verde until the present day. The focus of study is especially on the mazurka and the contradança, which are the forms that have a continuing contemporary presence and to attempt to show how, over time, they have been turning into a Cape-Verdean tradition. The methods employed included bibliographic research based especially on newspapers published at various times during the period covered; interviews and conversations with primary sources involved in these musical developments; and locating and listening to pieces of music related to the field investigated. The development of the thesis also involved consideration of the part played by Portugal in the period during which these songs and dances arrived in Cape Verde, providing understanding of its influence as a colonizer - and thus a source of transmission of Portuguese influence - which had the special character of also being the receiver of influences from the dominant countries of that time, like Britain and France. An influence which manifested, in terms of the main interest here, in consumer goods, fashions, songs and dances. In summary, it can be affirmed that the influence of Portugal occurred in line with its own character as a colonizer - central and at the same time peripheral, being an intermediary and also standing at the side while influences were arriving from elsewhere. I also reflect on how, in the post-independence period, when revolutionary fervour required a re-Africanization of the prevailing mentality, songs of European origin were not seen as a link to the colonial past, as happened in other territories. In Cape Verde they were seen as an item, among others, of the country's cultural diversity and thus of its cultural heritage. Finally, the ways in which mazurkas and contradanças are practiced today are described. Current forms of artistic expression (whether folkloric or contemporary) that use the Contradança or the Mazurka as a subject, or that interpret them (in dance, instrumental music, or in song) demonstrate that they are considered by Cabo-Verdeans as part of their own identity, and one of their traditions.

Key words: Cabo Verde; intangible heritage; Portuguese influence; mazurka; contradança