At home, in the islands of Cabo Verde, there was grog, or grogu, a strong sugarcane moonshine not dissimilar to Colombian aguardiente, copiously consumed at Funaná parties.
In the diaspora, in Europe, there was leite quente (hot milk).
“I can still remember the taste of the first leite quente I drank in Lisbon,” says Antonino Furtado Gomes, Pilon’s drummer and current band leader.
Synthesize the Soul, Ostinato Records’ second compilation, revealed chapter one of the Cabo Verde cultural story in Europe, zooming in on visionaries like Paulino Vieira who made Lisbon the headquarters spearheading the musical revolution taking place within Cape Verdean emigre communities across Europe in the 1980s. Musicians from across the diaspora would eagerly travel to the Portuguese capital to record.
Grupo Pilon represents the second chapter of the Krioulu diaspora story. In smaller pockets, second generation musicians were independently contributing to one of the most lush periods of cultural innovation by immigrants in Europe. In Luxembourg, in 1986, a group of teenagers formed the largely unknown (outside of Cape Verdean circles) but consistently brilliant band named after the blunt instrument used in the islands to pound corn for Cabo Verde’s national dish, cachupa.
With only five members, Pilon combined searing estilo Krioulu drumming and the hybrid ColaZouk style with blissful synth work and rugged guitar licks, creating a stripped-down, addictive sound that masterfully straddled two worlds, a seductive electro-Funaná carnival born from the first few sips of hot milk.
The band drew from the inspiring political changes of the day: the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The right to democracy became a constant theme in Pilon’s songs.
With access to better opportunities than their parents’ generation, Pilon’s roster were part time musicians. Music was not part of their academic upbringing nor a full-time gig. Their rhythm and style were wonderfully imperfect, made out of rawer skills and inexperience. Pilon did not follow the templates established by revered Cabo Verde bands. Keyboard player Emilio Borges played off beat and the band preferred arranging their songs to start from the beat normally heard in the middle of a composition rather than the beginning. These two elements made Pilon’s music simple, unique, and inimitable.
From 1997 to 2015, a lack of concerts and professional musicians proved near fatal. Today, Antonino and what remain of the original quintet are slowly piecing back together the puzzle of their once mighty outfit from an unlikely pocket of Europe. In its heyday in the 90s, Pilon serenaded audiences in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lisbon, Rotterdam and Frankfurt, securing their reputation as a respected and unifying cultural force.
This LP, drawing from the six most powerful songs from Pilon’s three-album catalog, is the serving of still fresh leite quente to spice the summer and maybe even fuel the next generation of musicians in the Krioulu corners of Europe.
Pilon are back in the studio refining their sound to revive their journey that looked all but lost to the world’s ears two decades ago.
From about 1970 to 1983, there were few bands as dominant as Orchestra Baobab. The had released a slew of 20 records and were acclaimed as the giants of Africa’s music industry, playing a mix of son cubano, Wolof music, and to a lesser extent Mande musical traditions.
Made In Dakar is some of their freshest material, recorded in 2007. It’s light, intricate, joyful music.
Raffaele Pezzella strikes gold yet again with this compilation of experimental musicians from all over the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these names are quite new to me, but all show the potential to provide scores of impressive releases as time passes.
This is a great snapshot into the field of avant-garde music from Africa.
World Circuit Records, a longtime leader in World Music, produces another magnificent album. This one is by a Malian singer born in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) called Fatoumata Diawara. She’s worked with such luminaries as Paul McCartney, Damon Albarn and Beninese legends Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou.