A mixtape created by Quanitc for Magnetica Sodade, Lost and Longing, Perdio e Sodade.
Saudade is one of the most famously untranslatable words. It carries a sense of bittersweet sadness and longing and often refers to people or places that have been lost and will likely never be seen again. The emotion is so pervasive that Brazil even has a holiday devoted to it. In all parts of the Portugese-speaking world, one says, “Tenhos saudades....” or “I have saudade of you” as a way of saying I miss you. In a sense, saudades is a very specific kind of feeling of the blues. It has been speculated that the word developed as an expression of homesickness for people and places during the era of Portugese exploration of the New World.
Eventually one of the places heavily trafficked by the Portugese were the ten islands of Cabo Verde or Cape Verde. About 350 miles west of Senegal, the small nation is neither Cape nor Green. Discovered in the mid-fifteenth Century, the islands became a natural stopping point for slave traders plying the waters of the Atlantic. The islands’ population is largely the descendants of slaves and their captors. An independent nation since 1975, Cabo Verdeans celebrate their creole (or Kriol) heritage seeing themselves not just as a hybrid of Portugal and Africa but also as the meeting ground between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. They too have inherited this feeling of Saudade which in Kriolu, the local patois, is known as Sodade
If there is one kind of music inexorably linked to Cape Verde, it is the morna, a somewhat melancholic but lyrical song that exemplifies the sense of sodade. Of course the greatest voice of the morna and perhaps the most famous Cape Verdean is the incomparable Cesária Évora. Discovered when she was already in her forties, Évora rose to international superstardom making all who heard her long to know more about her culture and the mornas and coladieras (the Cape Verdean style which is faster and more upbeat ) she was singing. Perhaps her most famous song is "Sodade", in which the feeling which pervades most of her music, is used to describe a longing for both a person and a place--for the time they had together.
Two and a half years after her death at age 70, Évora still looms large in Cape Verde; she smiles on posters and T-shirts and her music drifts from bars, restaurants, and residences. This is her place and the people are happy to remember her and her music; they are almost drawn to those memories by forces greater than themselves This is not to say that she was by any means the only great musician the country produced. The reality is music quenches the parched landscape and it is sung out by some incredibly talented voices.
Tonight’s concert marries the legacy of the great “Barefoot Diva” to the incredible talent of musician and producer Quantic (William Holland). Quantic is, hyperbole aside, nothing less than a master of contemporary music, effortlessly blending styles and creating not pastiche but something uniquely his own. Since Cesária is gone and will never be experienced again, I can imagine no one better than Quantic and the extraordinary guest artists to recontextualize the gift which she left us. Tonight, as we remember Cesària, her absence is a presence among us and we know that only Quantic and the musicians can help slake our feelings of Sodade.
Jordan Peimer is the Vice President & Director of Programs at the Skirball Cultural Center hosting a wide range of roots and world music, including the Sunset Concert Series, now entering its 18th summer.