'Music brings people together'
By Robert Haddocks, Standard-Times staff writer
WASHINGTON -- There was a message in
their music, Mike Antunes said after an energized performance that rocked the more than
700 people who squeezed in under the huge white tent on Tuesday, the last day of the
historic festival featuring the island nation of Cape Verde.
The message was simple: happiness,
love and unity. And the message was heeded as the entire crowd -- crossing the entire
racial and ethnic spectrum -- joined hands, swaying, dancing, jumping to the music of
Brockton's Mendes Brothers in a stirring, powerful and harmonious close to the ceremonies.
"The music is what brings people
together," said Mr. Antunes, a New Bedford native known for his recordings with the
Beaver Brown Band. "It's brought people together and different cultures together from
all over the world."
As Mr. Antunes played under the tent
with New Bedford residents -- cousin David Antunes, Joli Gonsalves, Feliciano
"Flash" Viera, and Joseph Silva of Marion -- Pettina Bell, a woman from the D.C
area, danced and hopped around with her niece, Elizabeth Gosnell.
"I had heard of the location of
Cape Verde, but had no idea of the culture, and it is beautiful," she said. "One
of the things I'm enjoying is how responsive the audience is. People seem so gloriously
open to the music. We walked by and just had to start dancing."
Many previously unfamiliar with the
culture have been turned on to coladera, funana, batuka and bandera, various styles from
Joao Mendes, a Cape Verdean who
co-owns a record label with his brother, Ramiro, typically plays the more upbeat styles,
including bandera, which incorporates American hip-hop flavor and Caribbean rhythms. New
Bedford-based band Tropical Lightning also plays a similar brand of music.
Mr. Mendes hopes the blending of music
will lead to a blending of cultures.
"This is the biggest event in our
long-term history," he said. "There's a lot of cultural exchange, a cross
between other people. There's a miscegenation taking place, and it's good for Cape Verde.
"A lot of people are being
introduced to Cape Verdean music and this eventually will give us a bigger audience. By
experiencing just this part of our culture, Cape Verde on the whole will be left in their
ears and I think that's very important."
Mr. Mendes, who has artists from
Portugal, France and the United States on his label, MB Records, said the traditional
music of Cape Verde is dying, but hopes the new bandera style will "give it more
He wants to see the new style take
off, much like reggae has, particularly in the big cities.
"We're not there yet," he
said. "We need a style that's going to revolutionize our music, and bandera might be
the style to do it. We have to bridge this gap and that's a tough thing to do."