Simentera (by P.Romo)
  • country:Cap Verde
  • region:Africa
  • style(s):
    • Afro
    • Latin
  • label:Piranha Records
  • type: Band, Composer/Songwriter
  • gender:male, female
  • instrumentation:instrumental, vocal

Being dead serious with the music you play doesn’t mean it can’t be light as a feather – as Mario Lucio de Sousa and Simentera rightly proved! The goal was to update the traditional Cape Verdean music to a contemporary model in order to keep it alive rather than just a museum piece. Mission accomplished.

Mario Lucio de Sousa – recipient of the WOMEX 14 Professional Excellence Award – is very serious about the music of his native Cape Verde islands. So serious that he became a Deputy in the Cape Verdean parliament from 1996 to 2001, served as Advisor to the Minister of Culture in 1992 and was finally named Cultural Ambassador of Cape Verde in 2011.

He was very serious about the music of Cape Verde as the leader of his group Simentera, too, until they disbanded in 2004. Founded in 1990, Mario Lucio de Sousa created the ensemble to revitalise the archipelago’s musical roots, when they were in danger of drowning in too much sampling, sequencing and synthetic grooving, used in music that was stuck in the past by concentrating on the wealth of historical compositions.

“If we don’t modernise our music, we will end up with a museum-piece in the same way as has already happened in many places around the world. A music which has an ethnographic value and thus ceases to be the expression of a popular feeling,” so said Mario Lucio de Sousa’s of the anti-climactic vision of the ‘unplugged’ phenomenon of the time. So, while most groups from Cape Verde played old compositions with electronic instruments, Simentera began to compose new pieces for acoustic instruments, to highlight their breathtaking voices.

To carve out the African roots of the islands’ music in the process, too. In the colonial times, African cultural elements were repressed – Simentera re-established the connection.
“You can find it in the percussion instruments that we introduced”, says de Sousa, “and the Batuco and Tabanka rhythms. Also the collective singing. We add choral arrangements to the music we write as if it had always been a part of the islands’ music”.

The results were satisfying in every respect: the delicacy of the acoustic instrumentation, airy voices and the outward-looking songwriting revitalise Cape Verde’s morna, coladera and funaná to quote only a few of the islands’ musical expressions. However, the band have carefully kept the melodic poetry, the languorous rhythms, the miraculous lightness so typical of these islands, once sad like all the sadnesses of this world, then happy as the radiant sun, full of love and suffering and naturally of sodade, that bitter-sweet mixture of memory and hope.

A music that masterfully prolongs that typical Cape Verde sound, yet also opens up to all kinds of delicate shadings around and beyond: it is, in equal measures, competent and thrilling.


Main Booking
Wilmersdorfer Strasse 125
10627 Berlin
Tel +49 (30) 393 29 04
Fax +49 (30) 315 041 14

Line up

  • Carlos Gomes (back vocal, sax tenor and soprano, percussion)
  • Elisio Faria Djembé (congas, agogó, pau-de-chuva)
  • Kim Bettencourt (lead vocal, tenor, cavaquinho (ukelelé))
  • Maria de Sousa (lead vocal, soprano, percussion)
  • Mario Lucio Sousa (lead and back vocal, 6 strings guitar, slide guita)
  • Nicolas Soares  (lead vocal, tenor, 6 strings guitar, tamborim)
  • Pepey Bettencourt (back vocal, 12 and 10 strings guitar, chequere)
  • Terezinha Araújo (lead vocal, soprano,percussion)
  • Tété Alhinho (vocal, contralto, percussion)

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