You could almost be forgiven for missing Cape Verde on the map, the tiny island nestles somewhere in the central Atlantic Ocean, 350miles to the west from Dakar, Senegal. The tropical country dazzles in its crystal clear beaches and year-round sunlight but if you visit with the intention of spending your time in an all-inclusive resort then you might be missing one of its most important attractions: the music.
Dino d’Santiago takes me on a journey, talking youth, family, and re-connecting with his homeland, in the island of Santiago. A place where Claudino de Jesus Borges Pereira, Dino became Dino d’Santiago.
A lot has changed since he released his first album “Eu e os Meus” back in 2008. For one, he is now signed to Sony and also finally able to combine his love for art & music. His new album Mundu Nôbu combines sounds from all PALOP countries with elements of hip hop and jazz.
This is the story of a man who found his voice on the island of Santiago.
MUNDU NOBU: NEW WORLD
Hey Dino, thanks for doing this. Could you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Quarteira, the south of Portugal. I came from a traditional religious family; a catholic family, my parents are from the Santiago Island in Cape Verde and later moved to live in the south of Portugal. During the 70s, after the colonisation, people came as refugees, so we had Angolans, Cape Verdeans, São Toméans, Mozambicans, Guineans, so a lot of the Lusophones and ex colonies. That’s why our riddims are so mixed like with Semba, Marrabenta, Kuduro, Funaná, Coladeira, Morna, and Batuke. All those riddims were really connected and well known. The only changes would be the food.
What kind of food?
In Cape Verde, you have Cachupa.
It’s done with corn, well cooked. Just like you have here in Portugal, Feijoada – which is beans with a lot of meat. In Angola you have Muamba, something like vegetable and then in Mozambique you have Camarão, done with prawns, this yellow sauce, it’s like sauce with rice. Of course, you’re invited to come to Portugal, and I’ll take you to all these places and show you all our foods.
[Laughter] It’s on record now you know so you can’t back out
[Laughter]Yes, it’s my word, I give you my word.
So back to music (laughter)
Yeah (laughter), in the 90s, it was the boom of those riddims, the Zouk, the mix of Zouk and Coladeira, before the Ghetto Zouk, which came at the end of the 90s. Before that, we had the passada. It was the first riddim that was really danced by men and women, like really dancing, crazy move, that was the beginning of Kizomba. With artists like Eduardo Paim, Paulo Flores, Grace Evora, all those old school singers, Jorge Neto, Beto Dias, they came with this riddim and people really enjoyed it.
During the week you had people working hard, like all Africans that came to Europe. And then, on Saturday they had this place that was really in the ghetto, like total ghetto, close to the sea where the marrabenta started to build this little salon, where every Saturday from 7pm till 2 am you had what we call a baile and this baile was where people danced, and you could see a lot of people with a lot of skill dancing, showing crazy moves, preparing crazy moves. Every Saturday, you had a new move, and this move would be learned by everyone during the week.
So, you had people showing up every Saturday to showcase their moves?
Yeah, yeah, and the clothes.
Haha, we like to show off!
And then on Sunday, you go to church. At the end of the 90s, the young generations started with the Ghetto Zouk, combining tropical sound with hard beats, reducing the tempo of the beat and even the message was a little dirtier, but the base was amazing. We called it ‘the sounds to make love.’ Same thing happened with jazz and hip-hop.
During this time, Ghetto Zouk just came from Rotterdam to France and then France to Lisbon and from Lisbon to the rest of the country, the rest of Portugal. All the Mozambicans, Angolans, Guineas, Sao Tomeans, all of them were really taking all those sounds and it was the first time in history that all the countries were connecting with the same type of music. In the old radio, people were listening to the same type of songs which mostly came from Cape Verde.
So, you guys were the source?
Yeah, we’re the source. The biggest names were always the Cape Verdean and then Paulo Flores and Eduardo Paim changed the game. And it was like, we, Angolans can do it too and they were the best dancers. We say that Cape Verde is the voice, Angola is the dance and the rest clap their hands.
It’s the truth! Although now you finally have a new generation. Every country now has its own moves, singers, it’s beautiful, its fairer now. You can say the industry is fairer. Especially between Cape Verde, Angolans and Mozambicans. Those three are strong and now Guinea, with the aftermath of the war have a new generation that are taking the sounds of Nigeria and Ghana, Afrohouse, mixing ancestral sounds with cola and people are really loving it. It’s amazing because Nigeria and Ghana are bringing one united sound and mixing that with the vibe of Kizomba and Funaná, I think it will be the future.
You said somewhere, I can’t remember where that Funaná is the new grime
Yeah, I remember, it all started with the album before Mundu Nôbu. I really travelled a lot, to different places, South Korea, Angola, Brazil. I played in Central Park in New York in this amazing concert and went to Cologne in Germany, and England. A lot of places basically and everywhere I went people really fell in love with Funaná and it was crazy because after every concert, they would ask me, ‘what is Funaná?’ ‘What is the meaning of Funaná?’ and ‘where does it come from?’
And what did you say?
I would explain that for me Funaná is our natural move, directly from the slaves, forbade by the colonial masters, only Morna and Coladeira were considered traditional music from Cape Verde at the time. To preserve this, you had the rebels’ who journeyed to the epicentre of Santiago, into the mountains, this is where Funaná was preserved until the government finally agreed that Funaná and Batuke were traditional music.
Why was the government so against it?
The government were against it because the songs were messages to their colonial masters, remember they couldn’t write so these songs always came from the heart and they would just improvise. It was only in the late 90s, early 2000s that Funaná started going everywhere because of Bulimundo. During the 80s, Bulimundo and Os Tubarões really got everybody listening to Funaná lento, meaning the slow Funaná, which is my favourite style of Funaná. And then in the 90s, you have the generation of Orlando Pantera, I am part of this generation.
I remember that name from my interview with Lura
Imagine! Orlando Pantera, the song Na Ri Na from Lura, the song Lua and Tunuka from Maya Andrade, Orlando Pantera made those two and even Os Tubarões and my generation – Tcheka, Sara Tavares, all of us were influenced by Orlando Pantera. He was the first person that took Batuke and Funaná, mixed it with jazz, and gave us this new art. He gave a new sound to those sounds. Orlando Pantera was about to come to Portugal to start working on his album and he died tragically.
Going back a bit, did you always want to become a musician?
My thing was drawing. I love to draw! I love painting so that was my focus when I was in school. I had it in mind that I was going to become a cartoon animator, or work for an anime house, or with Marvel, that was my dream.
So, you’re an anime and Marvel fan?
Yes, for real. And then music started, and It started taking all my time and I couldn’t manage the two worlds, it was just too much pressure. I eventually stopped and focused on music. And finally, if you go to my YouTube, you can finally see I’m starting to combine both worlds.
At what exact stage, if you can remember, did you make that decision to focus on/take music seriously?
It was in 2003 because I went to Porto to play with a band called Expensive Soul. They’re a neo-soul Portuguese band in the North of the country, so I went from the South to the North to play with this band and I’d been with them for 11 years. We did a lot of things, I learnt a lot from them, with those musicians in 2003. Then in 2008, I released my first album that of course was a mix between hip-hop and soul and when I wrote my first song in creole ‘Amor na’ dedicated to my mum, that moment changed my life.
In 2008, everyone started listening to me sing in Creole, they would tell me, ‘Dino, why don’t you do more songs in Créole?’ Why? Why? And for me, it was hard to do because I was born in Portugal and the only memories I had from Cape Verde was in 87 and when I went back for the first time after 20 years, it was hard because my parents came from a poor area, like we had no water, no electricity. Imagine a family, a religious one who had to climb to the top of the mountains to attend church. As a little child going through that was a bit traumatic and I would always say no, I don’t want to go church!
How was it like when you went back?
I went to the same places and although they now had electricity, it was still very poor with the same issue with water, as you had to get it from the river. My vision, changed, there in Cape Verde, Santiago, I could really feel the inner peace because you don’t have connection, no WIFI, no TV and then I started listening to the children, the dreams of the children, they would say things like ‘if I make it to Europe I would have this computer, phone, car’ and then, they would turn to me and say ‘you have so much luck and opportunity.’ It touched me. I felt with nothing, they could do everything. Here in Europe, we have everything, and we do nothing. That really sparked something within me, changing my mind and I started going there every single year. 6 times per year. And now, I’m like a Cape Verde lover, a Cape-Verdean, waving the flag and everything (laughter)!
Seriously though, they gave me my voice. I really found my voice there. Not being Marvin Gaye, not being D’Angelo, you know, just being Dino, the voice of Dino, I found it in Cape Verde definitely. Listening to the stories of my grandma, and my grandpa who was an accordion player of Funaná, so it was something that really changed my life.
How did they react when you started writing your songs in Creole?
My parents always spoke in Creole and we would respond in Portuguese and because of that type of conversation, Creole was always in my household and always part of me growing up. When I eventually started writing my own songs and because the sound came from the countryside of Santiago, when people in the city, in the capital, Praia started listening to my song, they were like damn, this guy just came from the countryside and his Creole is different and so when they finally realised that I was born in Portugal, they went crazy, saying ‘your sounds are so ancestral.’
And that’s why they really love me, when I go there, they always say ‘Dino is ours.’ And it’s good because I have the blessing from the ancestral singers like Tito Paris, Bulimundo, Tubarões, they are all connected with me. And I also have the new generation that really love me, the rappers, the kizomba singers, and that’s very good because it means the world that I really love are now finally in Mundu Nôbu.
The album is the combination of two worlds for the first time in the history of Cape Verde and believe me, it was hard preparing this album during those three years because I was like, I think they’re going to kill me, you know. It’s always a big fight between the roots and the modern world but I finally did it, keeping the message totally rooted but bringing the new vibes on Funaná, Batuke and the people are really in love with it.
What other sounds would you say are in your album apart from Funaná and Batuke?
Funaná, Batuke, a little bit of Morna, there’s some Kizomba flavour, a bit of hop-hop, afro house and all that combination makes the album what it is.
I always imagine those politicians on stage, in front of thousands of people, speaking to them, urging them but they don’t have the love of the people. We, musicians, have the power to connect and speak with the people. I always keep in mind that I’m going to make you dance but when you go to the message, you’ll listen and think. If you listen to Nôs Crença, that is really a combination of Coladeira, Zouk, Kizomba, and Funaná.
What was your process writing the album, you said the production took three years?
The process was amazing because I went to Cape Verde, and all those songs in the album were done with guitars and percussions only. Afterwards, I went to Portugal and I did it with my musicians and then I flew to Berlin to meet Kalaf, the executive producer of the album. Soon after, I met Seiji, a London guy that started the movement of jungle in the early 90s who went to Cape Verde to feel how people really reacted to my songs and then he started seeing, okay, we can take the roots of this song, also being conscious of not allowing the electronic sound to distract the ancestral feeling of the song. He was really kind on that. Just imagine that I recorded the album in two months and then he took two years and 8 months in production.
You wrote the songs and he created the beats on the song?
Yes! And he took two years and eight months just to put the songs like it is now. The hardest part was deciding what to take out, everything being clean, to allow my vocals to be in front. It has really worked, and people really like it, but it was a big process. We knew that it was something new and it would make a difference and now people are coming out with that same vibe.
Did you have to cut some songs from the album, or was it just the ten songs you recorded that was selected for the album?
I cut about five songs as we thought the selections we had were perfect, with the beginning, the middle and the end. I’m happy with the ten songs.
And how’s the response been so far, with the album and fans?
People are crazy about it. We did the concert here in Lisbon last year, in a big festival called Super Bock em Stock, it’s a festival with niche songs from the world so bands from USA, people like Gallant, Masego, they come to this type of festival. Last year was Masego. A lot of Indie bands, electronic, new bands from England, from all around the world and my performance in Lisbon was in that festival and it was sold out.
People in the streets listening to my songs, a massive reaction here in Portugal and all the radios started calling the label saying, ‘we need the song.’ I’m really happy because it’s an album where 80 percent is singing in Creole, and only two songs singing in Portuguese so it’s a big revolution even here and it’s top of the chart in the country so it’s really making history in our time and I’m so happy with that.
Do you have any favourite track on the album?
Definitely Mundu Nôbu, I always want to cry when I sing to it. Mundu Nôbu means new world in Creole.
I like that! You mentioned a bunch of artists that have inspired you, is there any artist that you would like to work with right now?
I’m loving a lot of producers right now. Branko is one of the producers that I love. Paul Dolby, he’s amazing, of course, he’s the producer of the album. And then you have the guys from Pritobristo, DJ mad fox, niggerfox, they’re amazing. I like producers and great DJs. And then singers, I love Maya Andrade, Sara Tavares, Lura. I love Paulo Flores from Angola, Aline Tranvanse from Angola, Karyna Gomes from Guinea.
From Mozambique, I love Selma Uamusse, she’s amazing too. From Brazil, I love Criolo, I love Rinco Sapiência, Liniker and from Nigeria, I love Wizkid, I love him because he’s bringing a new flavour. I’m also a fan of the ancestral ones like, Lokua Kanza, Salif Keita.
I love the Malians singers, they just connect you straight away
Yes, they just connect you straightaway with Africa. Malians have this power.
It’s so powerful
You can really feel the smell of the land.
Yeah, they take you back. They take your mind back with their voice
Yes, and my biggest inspiration till today is Bob Marley. He was a guy with a strong message.
Love, a lot of love and rebel songs too. A guy who was a mix of white and black, discriminated by the Africans and the whites. He was really a guy sent from heaven because he was so strong. You know Jamaica because of Bob Marley and that’s strong. That is being more than an artist.
Hopefully in the future, maybe people like say, we know Cape Verde because of Dino D’Santiago
Oh, now you’re giving a big punchline (laughter!)
Talking about inspiration, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians just starting out in their career?
The most important thing for me is that we can’t wake up and close your eyes to the world and see the world through mobile devices. The new generation can dance, can do parties but can’t be quiet.
You have a voice like Marley did, Queens did, Marvin Gaye, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, all of those who did it in the past and you can’t forget where you came from and knowing that you’re here in the present and you want a better future. That’s the message.
Finally, before we wrap up, could you tell us the story behind you signing to Sony?
That really happened because of Kalaf, my producer, he was the key with Sony. Although when they heard the album, they were like Dino, we were afraid that you would come with only acoustic sounds but you have really brought a new world. The first time they listened to Mundu Nôbu because they didn’t have much time for the other songs, they were like, we’re going to take this album. Just one song!
That is crazy! That is impact!
And definitely, of course, in this process, Madonna came to live in Portugal, and we met because of music and then everybody started talking about Dino D’Santiago. ‘How did he meet this star?’ Because she fell in love with Cape Verde music. She fell in love with Batuke, she fell in love with Funaná, and then she just asked me, ‘show me the city.’ And this, of course, changed a lot with the business with the label and for that, I am thankful to the universe.