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Award-Winning Vocalist and Composer Kavita Shah Releases New Single “Angola”

Listen and pre-save the single here

Track Appears on Cape Verdean Blues, to be Released September 15

A tribute to the legendary singer Cesária Évora, and a love letter to the breathtaking archipelago of Cape Verde

US and European Tour Dates Confirmed

Award-winning vocalist, composer, and educator Kavita Shah has released her new single “Angola” today. The track appears on her heartfelt forthcoming record, Cape Verdean Blues, due September 15, 2023 on the new global music label Folkalist Records. Listen and share “Angola” here and see below for U.S. and international tour dates kicking off in September.

The carefully curated album of traditional Cape Verdean mornas and coladeiras is also a tribute to the charismatic and unapologetically individual Cape Verdean vocalist Cesária Évora, and a love letter to her breathtaking archipelago and its welcoming people. The enchanting acoustic arrangement of “Angola” paints a sonic snapshot of the island paradise and its melancholy undertones. It features haunting vocals, mysterious guitar riffs, and highly danceable percussion beats with the classic coladeira hand claps that recall Cesária’s original recording. “‘Angola’ is a party song. The lyrics say, ‘Angolans, you guys really know how to have fun, but please don’t kill me, I have to leave in the morning!’” explains Shah. “But it has a double entendre, because it’s told from the perspective of a Cape Verdean living in Angola during the civil war who doesn’t want to die far from home.”

Resonating with the music’s language of loss, Shah, herself the daughter of immigrants, spent several years conducting ethnographic research on the Atlantic island of São Vicente. On Cape Verdean Blues, Shah’s collaboration with Évora’s longtime bandmates (including master guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Bau), and her bold self-possession have enabled her to achieve a rare feat: creating a world music album that feels like home.

Shah is a global citizen and cultural interlocutor whose work involves deep engagement with the jazz tradition, while also addressing and advancing its global sensibilities. She is a lifelong New Yorker of Indian origin hailed for possessing an “amazing dexterity for musical languages” (NPR). Shah speaks 9 languages—including Portuguese and Cape Verdean Kriol—and incorporates ethnographic research into her original music. She has researched traditional music practices in Brazil, West Africa, East Africa, Turkey, and India.

To date, Shah’s projects include Visions (2014), co-produced by Lionel Loueke; Folk Songs of Naboréa, which premiered at the Park Avenue Armory in 2017; and Interplay in duo with François Moutin, which was nominated in 2018 for France’s Victoires de la Musique for Jazz Album of the Year. Shah regularly performs her music at major concert halls, festivals, and clubs on six continents.

Shah first heard the voice of Cesária Évora as a 20-year-old college student in Cambridge, MA, a time when she was grieving the recent and sudden loss of her father and four grandparents. As an only child, these losses left her with very few tangible ties to her native culture. Months later, while conducting ethnomusicology research in Salvador, Brazil, Shah had the opportunity to hear Cesária perform live. “What struck me about her was that she was wholly herself. She was barefoot,
smoking, drinking, she wasn’t overly smiling or entertaining— she was just
delivering the songs,” Shah recalls. “As a person of color, to see a black woman
whose main power was her authenticity was transformative. She changed my life.”

Shah ended up visiting Cape Verde in 2016—after Cesária’s death—and it would be a trip brimming with serendipitous events. Through mystical coincidence, she ended up befriending Cesária’s musical director and guitarist Bau. The pair instantly discovered an intuitive musical chemistry, and informal jam sessions led to live performances. In 2018, Shah returned to Cape Verde after being awarded a grant by the Jerome Foundation to formally research and study its music and culture. During this time, she deepened her friendship with Cape Verde’s legendary classical composer Vasco Martins who penned the Cape Verdean Blues compositions “Um Porta Aberte” and “Situações Triangulares.”

Cape Verdean Blues organically grew organically out of Shah and Bau’s casual studio sessions originally intended to document their repertoire. The album features members of Cesária’s band, including percussionist Miroca Paris, and Cesária’s mentee and acclaimed vocalist Fantcha. It was recorded in Mindelo, Lisbon, and New York, and includes traditional repertoire in Cape Verdean Kriol, a newly-penned original written to lyrics by another legend, Morgadinho, a Brazilian classic, and an Indian folk song in Gujarati, Shah’s mother tongue. Shah painstakingly studied the repertoire’s distinctive phrasing, but she also invigorates the program of songs with fresh individuality. Trained as a jazz singer, Shah elegantly expands the songs with sensual vocal improvisations. She weaves in vocal textures, and mouth percussion creating lush, enchanting soundscapes with almost minimal orchestration.

It was weeks after that pivotal trip to Mindelo where Shah had the idea to create her own music label. “The word “folkalist” came to me on a layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was in the middle of a whirlwind trip from Cape Verde to Dakar, Bamako to Tanzania,” Shah recalls. “The adrenaline — fueled by the excitement of singing with the legendary Mulatu Astatke at a local jazz haunt, where I was stopped in my tracks by an Ethiopian singer vocalizing in ways I had never heard — made me understand that this was, and had always been, my life’s work: being a connector of cultures, a champion of vocal music, a lover of storytelling, and an advocate for preserving the inherent wisdom encoded in oral traditions.”

“Today I am proud to found Folkalist Records, one of the first labels owned by a woman of color, which is much needed in the music industry. Folkalist is here to center music from the Global South, and embrace cultural hybridity and the fertile space between genres. Folkalist is about creating a community for global music outside the colonial gaze, a space that eschews the long-held expectation that so-called “world music” be performative of something primitive or of the past. Instead, we celebrate singers, storytellers and culture-makers who set traditions in conversation with the modern world. It’s music that invites belonging and incites joy.”

Tour Dates:
Sept 21 – Providence, RI | Brown University
Sept 22 – Burlington, VT | UVM Lane Series
Sept 23 – Boston, MA | Cesaria’s Restaurant
Sept 27 – New York, NY | National Sawdust – f. special guest Fantcha, co-hosted by WNYC’s John Schaefer for New Sounds
Sept 29 – Bloomington, IN | Lotus Fest
Sept 30 – Bloomington, IN | Lotus Fest
Oct 1 – Marlboro, NY | The Falcon
Oct 4 – Baltimore, MD | Creative Alliance
Oct 5 – Bethesda, MD | The Strathmore
Oct 7 – Chicago, IL | South Asian Institute
Nov 1 – Lisbon, Portugal | Centro Cultural do Belem – f. special guest Nancy Vieira
Nov 2 – Porto, Portugal | Casa da Música – Sala 2
Nov 3 – Lamego, Portugal | Teatro Ribeiro Conceição
Nov 10 – Praia, Cape Verde | Palácio da Cultura Ildo Lobo
Nov 11 – Praia, Cape Verde | Palácio da Cultura Ildo Lobo
Nov 17 – Mindelo, Cape Verde| Centro Cultural do Mindelo

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