Friday, September 26, 2014

The Green Note of Cape Verde - "Nha Codé"

Have you ever heard about Cape Verde's Green Note ? Not yet, I bet. Well, just listen to the following music and you'll discover a new musical phenomenon that could be as important to capverdian music as the blue note has been in the birth of jazz and blues.

This music is a slow coladeira, a very famous type of capeverdian music, which is a kind of fast morna. If you have ever heard Cesaria Evora, you know what the morna is, that slow and nostalgic musical genre, in which they sing their sadness after a dear person left to find some work abroad, or on a fishing ship. Well, the morna is like the blues of Cape Verde ! The coladeira is, then, a morna played a bit faster. This one is a slow coladeira, although not slow enough to be considered a morna, and it comes from a disc, Raiz (1995), by a very famous music band from Cape Verde, Simentera, who used to play traditional music from these islands, and, here, a theme by Pedro Cardoso, Nha Codé.

First of all, I wanted to stress that, in this video, the images combine very well with the music. Black and white as they are, they emphasise some kind of nostalgic past time that seems to live in this music that is, as is seems from its title, dedicated to love ("Nha Codé" meaning "My Lovergirl").
Someone comments downwards on the Youtube page that 2'43'' is very cute and... indeed, I agree ;) 

I would also like to note the beautiful female voice. Waw... She is awesome ! Such a presence, such freshness, pureness ! She is so authentic, beautifully ingenuous !

The men's choir is also a remarkable element in the powerful charm of this music. They sing with a very smooth, restraint and discreet voice, I would nearly say it is an incantation. Did you hear the beautiful fifth ending so smoothly their phrase on 10' ?

Perhaps the meeting between the smoothness of the voices of the male choir and the striking presence of the lead female voice is the main key to the charm of this music.

Now, where is this famous green note ? Well, listen to it at 3'', 14'' and each time the men's choir begins this alternative phrase "O nha codé po minha dor" (as I can hear it) : there is one guitar playing a bass line leading to a F sharp while the cavaquinho (this tiny rhythmical 4 strings guitar, with this tiny high sound...) plays an F minor chord. Dissonance. Then, in the same sequence (and also repeatedly each time the sequence occurs), listen to the same dissonance between the flute and the guitar chord from 1'29'' to 1'31''.

This is a very specific point: the dissonance is displayed in two very different ways, it goes between a bass line and a chord first, and then between a lead instrument (the flute) and another chord. As if they wanted to show that the pattern of this dissonance can appear in any manner in the music, as if its strange taste was somehow universal, in the very nostalgic atmosphere.
It seems to me that here lies before us a very special note, born from a fully accepted dissonance, just like the blue note was. And what is more, the intervals involved in these dissonances are exactly the same as those involved in blues dissonance : thirds and fifths... One legend of the "blue note" tells that when the european priests went to Africa and taught the religious music and, with it, the european musical system, their pupils who had to train and play with the choirs at the mass made some mistakes, as they were learning, and some mistakes remained probably because they found some good taste to them, and traveled to the South of the USA giving birth to the new musical genre of the gospel. The mistakes were to play a minor third instead of a major one, and a disminished fifth, instead of a natural one, and both errors, they corrected as they played gave birth to these sliding blue notes that became the fundamental element of the blues and the jazz, and to rock'n'roll, through the music played as they could during the mass.

Well, my opinion is that, in this video, we can hear, through the dissonances I pointed out, a new blue note from Cape Verde, and I would call is simply the "Green Note".

I know that this green note only appears here, once in all the capeverdian music, while the blue note appears everywhere in the blues, in the jazz, in the rock. It has spread, while the green note has not. But isn't it allowed to dream it could ? After all, the future is not over yet ;)

Thanks for your musical attention...

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