Culture of Cape Verde
The Capeverdean everyday Life
Music, culture and culinary highlights


On top of the fascinating landscape, Cape Verde has many cultural highlights to offer…

Music

Traditional music is very popular on the islands and an important part of everyday life. Its roots go back to Portugal, Brazil and Africa. There are three main kinds of traditional music (Funana, Morna, Coladera), which differ not only in content and text, but also in rhythm and melody. Since playing music does not usually earn them enough money, musicians are often forced to take on a second job.

While Mindelo is the centre of traditional music, Praia is given to more modern influences. There, Cape Verdian pop music can be seen on numerous stages.

Cesaria Evora - the islands’ most famous musician - received the Grammy for World Music in 2004. Her popularity has secured Cape Verde increasing publicity throughout the Western world. She died in her house in Mindelo 2011, wherupon the airport of Sao Vicente was renamend in International Airport Cesariva Evora. Find out more at www.tropical-music.de

 

Culture

The islands’ culture is neither strictly European nor exclusively African, since the Portuguese’s goal from the beginning was assimilation. African languages, for example, were prohibited for some time. Nowadays, the traces of 400 years of Portuguese influence can still be found in architecture, lifestyle, manners and arts. But elements of African culture, seen in music, literature or arts,  are omnipresent, too. They still frame everyday life: A typical picture, for example, is a woman carrying her child on her back or heavy loads on her head.

 

Literature

What catches the eye is - at least to a certain degree - the absence of any critical point of view: Older poems often do not broach the issues of famines and other problems and can thus not be seen as realistic historical recounts. The reason for this is the identification with the Portuguese, which greatly benefited from segregation.

Writers did not start criticising the social system openly until the end of the 19th century, when they demanded independence. On and off, literature was censored by the Portuguese, which led numerous writers to deal with spiritual and mystical subjects instead. Some let their imaginations run wild regarding the history of the islands before the arrival of the European settlers. Democratization in 1991 brought about a revival of the media landscape, but insufficient funds, the geographical disparity among the nine inhabited islands and numerous different Kriolu dialects make it hard to support national literature.

 

Culinary specialities of the islands

The coast of Cape Verde is rich with fish and seafood of various kinds, so naturally these make up a large part of the islands’ cuisine. Especially popular are tuna, swordfish, moray eel, cuttlefish, mussels and shrimp, which are a delicacy fried with onions or steamed in garlic. Fried potatoes and rice usually serve as the main side dishes. A simple, yet widely popular main course on the islands is Cachupa, a mixture of corn and beans, enriched with bits of fish or meat. Many traditional meals include vegetable soups as a starter and fresh fruit or caramel cream as a dessert.

Beer, wine and local spirits are widely available. You should try Grogue, a local sugar cane liquor that is often drunk with honey (Ponche). A very good red and white wine is being produced on the volcanic island Fogo.

 

Here is the recipe of a traditional local dish for you to cook at home:

Caldo de Peixe - Cape Verdian Fish Soup

This is a tasty, typical dish featuring fish as the main ingredient. Cape Verde, situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, has abundant fresh fish and seafood at its disposal. Fruit and vegetables mainly grow on the 'green' islands of Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Fogo and Santiago.

Serves 4:

  • 1 kg fish
  • 4-5 sweet (or regular) potatoes
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • salt
  • garlic
  • cardamom
  • ¾ litre water

Clean out fish, salt and cut into pieces. Cut potatoes and heat in water together with fish. Let simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, and then add cut vegetables, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon vinegar and spices to your personal liking. Let simmer for another 10 minutes and serve.

Enjoy your meal!

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