Loss, Destiny and Success: Interview with Lucibela

A lot has changed since Lucibela first sang in public; she recalls singing in high school on Valentine’s day to a playback of a Brazilian song. The journey hasn’t been easy, the death of her mother amongst others has seen her grow from strength to strength.

After months of trying, I finally had the opportunity to speak to Lucibela about her musical journey especially her debut album, Laço Umbilical.

Hi Lucibela, thanks for doing this. Could you give us some background information about yourself?

Hi Joseph, I’m very pleased to do this, and thank you. I was born in São Nicolau, where we have many musicians (non-professionals) who like to perform serenades and dances. The same island as Paulino Vieira and Toy Vieira, who are for me the best multi instrumentalists and composers of Cape Verde.

And how did you get into music?

Ever since I was little, I had great interest in music. At home, I would always be next to the radio waiting for my favourite songs to play but I never dreamt of becoming a singer.

I still remember my mother singing Morna whilst doing errands although at the time I was very young but I grew up listening to the radio and absorbing music very quickly. Sometimes in a day or two, I would be singing lyrics to an entire new song. I was singing everywhere, at home, on the streets, during breaks in school and, in the evening, I’d go to my terrace and sing by myself.

So what started you on your musical journey?

I remember my classmates asking me to sing and telling me that I was very good, but still I didn’t think I would ever become a singer. I don’t know if that disbelief was related to my mother wanting me to study and follow a career (because singing was never seen as a profession for my mother and her generation) or for truly not believing that I would be able to do it at that time.

The desire to sing was growing on me and when I started high school, I started to think that I could possibly sing in public due to school activities. Also, because I started to hear about groups organising singing nights (my mother wouldn’t let us go out at night, so I had never heard about it before). There were activities in high school for Valentine’s Day and with the help of my colleagues I decided to sign up to sing. It was playback for a Brazilian song, and I had my heart racing because it was my first time ever singing on stage in public.

And you lost your mother in the midst of this all?

My mother died of breast cancer when I was 17 years old and it took me some time to get used to her death and all the freedom of choice that I suddenly got, and with that the responsibility to make my own decisions.

Some months later I went back to high school and there was this activity where the teachers would play and the students sing, but this time it was traditional music. I took part and sang live “Nutridinha” for the first time with musicians (teachers). My computer teacher was part of the group, and he liked my voice a lot. He had a group doing Cape Verdean nights in Mindelo and invited me to join, which I accepted. I just got the best of two worlds, a combination of what I needed and what I liked. I saw this as a chance to start doing what I always wanted to do, and also a way to pay the bills since I no longer had my mother with me. I started doing Cape Verdean nights and I fell in love with our music more and more.

Growing up, who were your musical inspirations?

I listened to a lot of Brazilian music growing up like Alcione, Djavam, Ivete Sangalo, Adriana Calcanhoto, bossa nova, amongst many others. As I grew older, I started to listen to Cape Verdean traditional music, Ildo Lobo, Cesária Évora, Lura, Bana, Tito Paris, etc. And a bit of everything like pop, rock and so on. I never had a unique reference, I just enjoyed hearing a little bit of everything. The more traditional music I listened to, the more memories of my mother singing Morna I’d remember.

What was it like growing up in Mindelo compared to, say, Santiago, where it seems a lot of Cape-Verdean artists are from?

When I was five or six years old, I went with my mother, my sister and three brothers (I’m the youngest) to live in São Vicente. We have many great musicians in São Vicente, some being better known than others. And great composers, Manuel de Novas being my favourite. Growing up in Mindelo helped a lot because it was easier to be part of groups and act in bars and restaurants – the doors were open. But I’ve also lived in other Cape Verdean islands like Sal, Boavista and Santiago where I met great musicians although not so well known. And there I also did Cape Verdean nights every day in bars and hotels, each of them was part of my journey and I’ve learnt a lot with them.

What’s so unique about the part of Cape-Verde that produces such amazing artists?

I don’t know if I can say ‘what’s so special in Cape Verde to have so many good artists?’ (haha). I see our music as our gold, our oil, it’s all we have. We grew up surrounded by it. Every family has an uncle or a cousin who plays a little guitar or someone who sings around the house. Our music helps calm us, it amuses us and it is through it that we cry our “saudade” (portuguese word to express longing for someone or something we love) and sorrow for those who are far from us. It is through it that we tell our story and I believe that it is well received because we do it from our hearts … I sing with my heart.

How did the deal with Lusafrica come about?

I met José da Silva in Praia – Santiago Island during a night where I was singing in a well-known restaurant “Quintal da Música”. He enjoyed hearing me singing and, later on, we talked about the possibility of recording with Lusafrica.

It seems Lisbon has become a second home to a lot of Cape-Verdeans, why did you decide to move there?

I decided to go to Lisbon to be closer to my daughter (my daughter’s father is Portuguese and both were living in Lisbon). For a year, I sang in the club “B.Leza” and in the streets of Lisbon. I joined a group of Cape Verdeans living in Lisbon called “Nós Raiz” (portuguese for our roots).

What song would you say was your favourite song on the album and why?

I couldn’t choose only one song in my album, I like them all. Some of them I was already singing for years in the evenings and they are all part of me, such like: “Mi é dode na bo Cabo Verde“ ,”Novo Olhar”, “Dona Ana”. And others that I felt in love as soon as the composers sent to me, for example: “ Laço Umbilical“, “violeiro”, “Arku da Bedja”, “Profilaxia”, and much more. I can’t have a favourite, I like my whole album, they were all chosen by me. I like singing songs with a story, whether it is a sad or a happy one, but it needs to make sense so I can pass it on to the public.

I’m sure you’re aware of your comparison to Cesária Évora, how does that feel and how do you deal with the pressure that comes with it?

Even when I was only singing in bars, restaurants or hotels, people were already comparing me to Cesária Évora and I would always blush and turn red. I am honoured and happy with that, while, at the same time, I carry a great responsibility. Happy because I believe that not everyone is compared to our great diva and if they do so, it is a great sign about me. But Cesária is unique. She opened the doors to the world for us and even today she is an inspiration to me. It is a great responsibility to be compared to her. I am aware of how “big” she is for our music and for the world. All I want is to do what I love and continue to carry our music throughout this world by the paths that Cesária left open for us.

What should we be expecting from you for the rest of the year?

I have concerts every month in several countries until the end of year: July 7th in the Netherlands, 18 in France, 21 Portugal and 28 in Austria; – August, September and October I’ll be on tour in Canada, USA and Latin America. – November: 15th in the Netherlands.

A new version of the debut album, Laço Umbilical, was released on 14th June with an additional track titled “Ti Jon Poca.” Two tracks on the album have also been re-worked, “Dona Ana” featuring the renowned Bonga and “Sai Fora” (previously known as “Mal Amadu”) by the talented Sofiane Saidi. 

Follow Lucibela on YouTube & Facebook.

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