Cape Verde's "Queen music" hopes to be World Patrimony on Wednesday

Morna's UNESCO Heritage Application Approved

Morna's UNESCO Heritage Application Approved

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The Creole song that emerged 200 years ago between the Cape Verdean islands of Boa Vista and Brava, influenced by the Portuguese-Brazilian modinha, with lyrics of longing and love, is expected to be classified this Wednesday, in Bogotá, as World Patrimony.

The song is considered the "queen music" of Cape Verde as "Nôs morna" - one of Manuel d`Novas' best known mornas - recalls. The dossier for the candidacy for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, has over 1,000 pages and about 300 interviews and was formally delivered on March 26th, 2018. In November, it had the approval of the expert committee of that organization.

The final decision on ratification of the classification will be taken during UNESCO's 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The meeting starts today and lasts until Saturday, in Bogota, Colombia.

An UNESCO source explained to Lusa that the Committee "should examine the nomination of Cape Verde probably on Wednesday," adding that "decisions are usually taken by consensus without voting". In addition to the "morna" of Cape Verde, the committee will review the ratification of 41 other applications (including from Portugal and Brazil).

The Cape Verdean delegation that participates, starting today, in these meetings is led by the Minister of Culture and Creative Industries, Abraham Vicente, and also integrates local musicians. Asked by Lusa before leaving for Colombia, the official confessed his expectation for one of the most awaited news since the independence of Cape Verde.

"It is the feeling that the preliminary work has already been done and the expectation of being able to send the good news to the Prime Minister, who will officially communicate them to the country, on December 11 or 12," admitted Abraão Vicente.

According to the application dossier, the morna will have appeared in the nineteenth century, the island where it originated is not consensual: Boa Vista or Brava.

Known by the lyrics of the poet Eugénio Tavares (Brava island, 1867 - 1930) and later of Francisco Xavier da Cruz or 'B.Léza' (São Vicente island, 1905 - 1958), the morna met her largest exponent outside Cape Verde through singer César Évora (1941 - 2011), who through his music opened the doors of the world to a country of just over half a million inhabitants.

Morna comes from a mix of musical styles with strong African roots, the landum, and has influences of the Luso-Brazilian modinha, recalls the dossier of candidacy for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

One of the oldest written references to the morna comes from a book by Russian naval officer Konstantin Staninkovitch, who visited Cape Verde in 1861.

"Morna is a musical practice that is structured in three dimensions: melody, poetry and dance, characterized by the quaternary measure, slow rhythm and predominance of the perfect classical minor tonal schemes of European influence," reads the dossier.

Performed in Cape Verdean Creole by a soloist voice, male or female, there are also mornas played with only instruments, and featuring "lyric-passionate themes, a melancholic song is produced, closely linked to the feeling of love, suffering, longing, tenderness, sadness, irony and the good or bad luck of the individual's destiny."

Usually accompanied by viola, ukulele, violin and piano, the "morna's instrument of excellence" is the guitar, introduced in Cape Verde in the 19th century.

Cape Verde's candidacy is grounded in popular culture and that has kept the morna alive to this day, fueled by musicians and performers of all ages.

The dossier itself brought to UNESCO has 77 individual statements of consent and support, from Morna instrumentalists, composers and interpreters, to artisans and string instrument builders.

Such is the case of "Zé di Guida," a native of Fogo, born in 1925 and who in 2017 was considered the oldest active morna musician, or by António Félix Lopes singer since the age of eight, who says in his declaration, to have in his possession the "largest record of mornas," which he "intends to use for promotion and dissemination."

Adi Grandão, 36-year-old musician, says in his statement about Morna's candidacy: "It expresses everything a Cape Verdean feels, so much joy, sadness, longing."

And for Violinist Admir Borges, 37 years old, "the morna is the queen of our culture and reflects what we are as Cape Verdeans."

The Cape Verdean dossier had the technical support of Portugal and the collaboration of anthropologist Paulo Lima, a Portuguese expert in the elaboration of UNESCO's Intangible World Heritage application processes, such as fado, Alentejo singing and rattle art.

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