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Sara Tavares, World on 3, Friday 15 May 2009

PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 12:00 pm
by Charlie
When Cesaria Evora burst into international recognition back in 1988, many of us were unaware that there was a distinctive sound of the Cape Verde islands. Since then, we have learned to distinguish the difference between Cape Verde singers and those from Portugal or Brazil, although I admit that when I first heard ‘Balance’ by Sara Tavares, I did assume she was Brazilian. Her voice is so light and her melodies so free, she never for a moment suggested the sombre moods of fado or even the darker tones of Cesaria herself.


Sara Tavares is one of three outstanding young female Cape Verde singers to follow in the footsteps of Cesaria. I wondered if Sara knew the other two, Mayra Andrade and Lura, and what kind of relationship they have. She said they do run across each other at festivals where they compare notes about their difficulties and progress. There was no sense that they feel in competition with each other; they are musical sisters following parallel paths.

As it happened, Cesaria’s name never came up in this conversation. Instead, Sara introduced several male singers and musicians who are not yet well-known outside the islands, including Boygé Mendes who plays on Sara’s own new album, Xinti.

Sara was actually born in Lisbon (to Cape Verdean parents), and for several years followed the typical career path of a local pop singer, winning a TV competition as an impersonator of Whitney Houston and going on to represent Portugal in Eurovision. Signed to BMG, she made an album with the French-based Congolese producer Lokua Kanza which I set aside at the time as yet another uninteresting album that showed little sign of any African qualities. But in this game where we alternate records I took the chance to play a track from the album Lokua made with Cameroon bass player Richard Bona and French Antilles guitarist Toto Guillaume. As soon as ‘Lisanga’ started, Sara commented that this song is used as the cell phone ring tone by the immediately preceding artist, Boygé Mendes. Such coincidences are indescribably satisfying.

When I had met Sara before, at the time of the release of Balancé, I was so bowled over by her effervescent charm, I did not take in what an outstanding guitarist she is. This time, I concentrated on her playing and was fascinated by her unorthodox chord shapes. Musicians are often described as ‘self-taught’, but I have not previously appreciated that this can imply that they each work out their own unique ways to place their fingers on the strings, as Sara does.

Incidentally, this programme started with tracks from the two albums that were cut out of the previous programme due to an over-run of a live concert on Radio 3. I have complained bitterly to the management at Radio 3 that such cuts are extremely painful and dispiriting for the team that spends so much time and care in choosing what to include, and have been assured that efforts are being made to try to avoid repetitions of live concert over-runs in future.


By extraordinary chance, I will meet one of the other female musical ambassadors of Cape Verde music in July, when Lura will come to sing and play radio ping pong. Next week, May 22, my guest is the enigmatic Canadian singer, Lhasa. Just in case you were wondering, or even feeling envious, I do appreciate how fortunate I am.

World on 3 is broadcast every Friday night at 11.15 pm (23.15) on BBC Radio 3, and is online for the next seven days at

Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Staff Benda Bilili - Moziki - Trés Trés Fort - Congo - Crammed Discs - CRAW 51

2 - Wilmoth Houdini - Poor but Ambitious - Poor But Ambitious - Trinidad - Arhoolie - CD 67010

3 - 17 Hippies - Adieu - El Dorado - Germany - Hipster - HIP 013

4 - Oi Va Voi - Waiting - Travelling the Face of the Globe - UK - Oi Va Voi - Oi Va Voi CD 2

5 - Sara Tavares - Voice of the Winds - in session - Cape Verde - -

6 - Boygé Mendez - So Doce, So mel - Noite de Morabeza - - Lusafrica - 362122

7 - Gerald Toto; Richard Bona; Lokua Konza
" - Lisanga - Toto Bona Lokua - French Antilles, Cameroon, Congo - Universal Music/No Format Records - SSL 3030

8 - Princezito - Pilonkan (Fisherman of poems) - Spiga - Cape Verde - Harmonia Lda - 23952

9 - Sara Tavares - Barquinho Da esperanza - in session - - -

10 - Chiwoniso - Matsotsi - Rebel Woman - US/Zimbabwe - Cumbancha - CMB-CD-8

11 - Sara Tavares (Ft. Boyge) - De Alma - Xinti - Cape Verde - World Connection - WCD34

12 - Garifuna Women's Project - Merua - Ulmalali - Belize - Cumbancha - CMB-CD-6

13 - Júlio Pereira - Boyzinho - Rituais - Cape Verde - MUM Records - MUM 026CD

14 - Moondog - Sextet (Oo) - More moondog - US - Honest Jons records - HJRCDDJ106

15 - Toumani Diabate - Elyne Road - Mande variations - Mali - World Circuit - WCD079

16 - Sara Tavares - Penestrada - in session - Cape Verde - -

17 - Bonga - N'genda - Bairro - Angola - Lusafrica - 56y25 562212

18 - Sara Tavares - Ponto de Luz - in session - Cape Verde - -

19 - Lhasa - Fool's Gold - Lhasa - - Warner - 2564690483

20 - Dead Combo - Electrica Cadente - Dead Combo Vol. 1 - - Transformadorres - 510035

21 - John Lee Hooker & Miles Davis - Murder - The Hot Spot - USA - Antilles - AN 8755

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 5:37 pm
by David Flower
the other week I bought what is called 'Alive in Lisboa' by Sara Tavaes,a 2CD & DVD box. The DVD is a live concert from 2007, the album Balancê which is great but which I already had bought and the "sought after album Mi Ma Bô that was produced by Lokua Kanza and so far only published in Portugal".
Both Tavares and Lokua Kanza (check his CD 'Toyebi Téare') are capable of the most heavenly close-harmony romantic songs which evoke wallowing in the shallows of a Caribbean beach while slowly eating a perfect mango. Or something pleasant like that. But both artists can veer over that thin border line. There be Shmaltz! Bit like Brazil I suppose. I fear both artists are spending a little too much time on the other side.
Listening to her earlier album is a lesson in how an artist with talent can be transformed by the right material and producer. Mi Ma Bô is a singer trying to sing pop/soul and is unremarkable. Whoever produced her next album Balance took her a mighty leap forward. All these Cap Verde girls, have so much going for them (Mayra Andrade is extremely intelligent and savvy and speaks 5 languages fluently and is only about 22), but can't quite decide which is the best artist amongst them. All very seductive, but slightly too much rich cream on top at the moment

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 6:36 pm
by Charlie
David Flower wrote: All these Cap Verde girls, have so much going for them (Mayra Andrade is extremely intelligent and savvy and speaks 5 languages fluently and is only about 22), but can't quite decide which is the best artist amongst them. All very seductive, but slightly too much rich cream on top at the moment

Having made programmes with all three, I can only share your confusion and indecision, while believing that Sara and Lura are both better than their records suggest whereas Mayra probably captured her potential very well on her only album.

At Nick Lowe's Albert Hall gig last night, Chris Difford (of Squeeze) collared me to say, 'you do realise you have the best job in the world, don't you?' I assured him I did realise, and he explained that his comment was based on having driven home from the west country on Friday listening to the show with Sara Tavares.

On the other hand, there has not been a single comment left on Radio 3's own message board. If the listeners don't like this programme, I wonder what would satisfy them.

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 7:09 pm
by David Flower
i should add that I liked the programme a lot. But I invariably do and take you completely for granted I'm afraid. As I always 'listen again' nowadays my days of taping the shows then copying over the appealing bits to my compilation cassette tapes are over. I'm stuck on about 150 of these C90s, which makes 225 hours of Charlie, Kershaw, Lyseight, Jo Shinner and others going back. They used to make great car tapes as you never knew what was coming. But can't even do that now. I'll keep them all though

PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 11:38 pm
by dave o
likewise. I used to set up the cassette recorder which had a auto reverse and I could then fill a C120 while I was reading the kids their stories. Over the week I would listen to it a couple of time in the car and then record over it the next Saturday. Being a C120 it would of course break sooner rather than later and then it was back to the shops.

Might just be me but there was an energy and sometimes an anarchy in the old Saturday night shows that hasn't survived the journey to radio 3. Brian Eno turning up after his ride in a Nigerian driven mini cab and sharing his cheese sticks.

PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 9:47 am
by Charlie
dave o wrote:Might just be me but there was an energy and sometimes an anarchy in the old Saturday night shows that hasn't survived the journey to radio 3.

I have done my best to devise a situation in which anything can happen - in this Friday's show with Lhasa, I caught her off guard by asking her to sing the same song (not her own) that she had used in the soundcheck. She barely knew all the words and her guitarist was unsure of the chords, but they gallantly gave it a go, admittedly with our promise that we would cut it out if it wasn't good enough. But it was, and helped to give a sense of genuine spontaneity.

About a year ago, I similarly caught Wasis Diop by surprise asking him to do his version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' (long before it became a number one hit by somebody else) and he did start it but then asked if he could begin again in a different key. I thought it sounded so interesting and different, I suggested we use both versions, which the producer agreed to do. But later I heard that the executive producer had thought this had sounded sloppy. But the story shows the atmosphere we operate in. Still, I must say that after a rocky start, the producers have come round to being fully supportive and sometimes even enthusiastic, which can help a lot.

PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 11:48 am
by David Flower
does it feel different doing a live show when you knows it not live?

These days I also notice fewer garbled pronounciations by yourself, Chilly Garrett. Have you had a babelfish installed?!

PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 11:57 am
by Charlie
David Flower wrote:does it feel different doing a live show when you know it is not live?

Yes, definitely, much less adrenalin. But that was inevitable, once I was involved in Radio 3's late night line-up in which all the programmes are pre-recorded because nobody wants to be live on the radio at that hour.

One of the results of pre-recording is that when there is a fairly large group of musicians, the engineer likes to sound check each song separately as we go along, to make sure every instrument is heard properly, which takes the 'flow' out of the proceedings. But I do understand the need, and suffered the loss of an entire song when we did not have time to do this on the Oumou Sangare session for the World Service and missed a back-up vocal because no mic had been assigned to pick it up.

PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2009 10:28 pm
by dave o
Charlie. Thank you, and the Friday night programme with Lhasa was great.

What you said got me thinking. I suppose radio 3's rationale for the Friday night programmes is as a showcase of the diversity of world music, as an adjunct to Late Junction, which fills that timeslot on the other four days of the week. What I loved about the now mythical Radio London programmes was more the bits in between the music and, whilst fitting in your live musicians into the studio cubbyhole was a nightmare - as you often told us, the output had a rawness and energy like a good bootleg. That's why my heart would sink when you went on holiday. Whoever was coming in to do the cover might be playing great music but it was no substitute. As the lyrics of the one of the Archbishop of Canterbury's desert island discs go - "Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes / But you never quite learned the song she sang'.

Still I am grateful we still have you on air and hope we can all grow old disgracefully together.