Scene and heard: Funaná

Defined by its high-tempo accordion melodies and frenetic tinny percussion, this is the sound of a raucous, drunken village party

With growing interest in genres like kuduro, kwaito and coupe-decale, it appears that many westerners (mainly bloggers, it seems) currently have a real penchant for African music.

However, for the people of Cape Verde this wasn't always the case. Back when the archipelago was a Portuguese colony, the traditional accordion-based sound of funaná was initially banned for being too "African". It was only following independence in 1975 that the sound began to spread.

Funaná is defined by its high-tempo, skittish accordion melodies and frenetic tinny percussion, played on a scraped idiophone, known as the ferrinho. It is the sound of a raucous drunken village party.

The traditional sound was made popular by bands like Ferro Gaita, and given a contemporary twist by Bulimundo, but more recently an electronic take on funaná has emerged.

It was via musical connoisseurs Radioclit that I first heard about this dancefloor-friendly take on funaná. With so many blogs now dedicated to uncovering obscure world music, you can explore a whole genre with a few Google searches, as Etienne Tron, one-half of the London-based DJ/production duo, explains. "We got so much into funaná at one point that we were struggling to get more really good tracks – the weird and digital-sounding ones we like – and I even considered a trip to Cape Verde. Until I found one blog where I downloaded 300 funaná tunes in a few hours; more than I would ever find in local shops in Cape Verde, probably. We would still love to go there though."

The high energy and tinny percussion of funaná resembles the Caribbean sound of soca, and the incessant 808 kicks and handclaps of some electronic funaná tracks recall Chicago's juke sound. This was noticed by Radioclit, who mixed their favourite funaná tunes with the aforementioned genres, as well as similarly uptempo sounds like speed merengue and bubu in their recent mixtape for music blog Corporate Blogging.

The artists making electronic funaná don't seem to have a purist attitude either. The producer of the Duda track in the video above, Normal Nada, also produces kuduro, and the same is true of many more artists.

Thanks in a large part to Radioclit, bloggers all over the world are now clambering to listen to funaná. The scene, certainly, is thriving once again after its oppression under the colonial regime of the Portuguese.


John McDonnell

The GuardianTramp

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