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Cape Verdean Musical Practice Dating back to the 18th Century

After the abolition of slavery under the Portuguese empire, recurring droughts and desertification in Cape Verde resulted in periods of famine and epidemics. This led to several eras of mass migration which shaped the history of the nation. It was against this backdrop of emigration and return that morna was born. And in December 2019, it was recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Initially performed by women who were brought into the archipelago from West Africa and forced into slavery, improvised songs were used by “Cantadeiras” (women singers) to speak of day-to-day affairs – often taking on a satirical format. Over time, morna, also known as “música rainha” (“queen music”), underwent several changes to its melodic and rhythmic characteristics, becoming the slower, more mournful version heard today. Characterised by three dimensions of melody, poetry and dance, morna is often sung in Kriolu, Portuguese-based Creole, though it can be instrumental, too.