Bitori, a living legend of funaná from the island of Santiago in Cabo Verde, is due to release a retrospective album titled Legend of Funaná in May 2016 on German-based label Analog Africa. It will be the first time his music is released internationally, and will be supported by a tour of Europe.
In the early 1950s, Victor Tavares, better known as Bitori, embarked on a journey to the island of Sao Tomé & Principe, hoping to return to Cabo Verde with an accordion. It took him two years to save enough money to acquire his cherished instrument. It became Bitori's most valued possession, which he mastered on his return to the island of Santiago.
Self-taught, Bitori developed his own infectious style that quickly caught the attention of the older generation. He was asked to invigorate local festivities around Praia. But not everybody welcomed the rural accordion-based sound of funaná. Initially banned, frowned upon as music of uneducated peasants, and deemed too "wild", it was only following Cape Verde´s independence in 1975 that the sound began to spread. Still, traditional funaná wasn't recorded until the late 90's.
A young singer from Tarafal, Chando Graciosa, immediately felt drawn to Bitori's talent, his raw passionate sound and honest lyrics reflecting the harsh reality of the working class. He eagerly approached Bitori to join forces and spread funaná beyond its rural roots, travelling and performing overseas.
While Bitori returned to Cabo Verde, Chando chose to settle in Rotterdam in The Netherlands to pursue his career, but vowed to bring the master there to create a record. In 1997, the time was ripe to immortalize the sound Bitori had shaped over the years. Built around a formidable rhythm section of drummer Grace Evora and bass player Danilo Tavares, ‘Bitori Nha Bibinha’ was recorded, a masterpiece which many consider to be the best funaná album ever made. That recording catapulted Chando Graciosa to stardom, making him Cabo Verde´s No.1 interpreter for funaná.
The success in Cabo Verde was phenomenal, and funaná rapidly gained the recognition it deserved, especially in urban dance clubs. Bitori´s songs quickly became standards, classics, known and loved throughout the nation. But its success was limited solely to the Cabo Verdean islands and never had the opportunity to travel beyond its confines - until now!
Analog Africa is planning a worldwide reissue of the legendary recording, to be released in May 2016. Significantly, the original musicians from these recordings will re-unite around Bitori and Chando Graciosa for an international tour, which will take place in the Northern hemisphere summer of 2016. The current line-up of the band is Bitori on gaita accordion, Danilo Tavares on bass, Fernando Amarante Dias (aka Chando Graciosa) on lead vocals and ferro, Jorge Martins (aka Jorgem Pimpa) on drums, and Antonio Sanches on vocals.