Monday, 23 March 2015


Busy life, no time, short post. I know I’ve been saying the same thing for the last four months, but last year I had way too much free time so I could spend a lot of time writing. Let me stress again, last year. Anyway, this post is about a song I used to hate when I was a child. Funny how things change, right? I’ve never been into African music, but I’m slowly starting to like some stuff.

Sodade was written by Armanzo Zeferino Soares, a Capeverdean composer. At least, that’s what was decided in court on December 2006, as there were several disputes due to the authorship, some of them including Amandio Cabral and Luís Morais.

Armando Zeferino Soares told the newspaper A Semana that he created the music about six decades ago, in a farewell celebration to a group of friends that embarked for Sao Tomé e Príncipe.

The song talks about the nostalgia experienced by Cape Verdeans emigrants who have been emigrants for centuries. It has never been the richest country, so I guess many people had no other choice but to migrate if they wanted to survive. For example, there’s a recorded migration of Cape Verdeans to New England, as their exceptional seafaring skills helped them to be recruited as whalers. When people migrated from Cape Verde, departures of friends and family were accompanied by serenades to bid farewell to loved ones. Sodade is reminiscent of this tradition.

Specifically, Sodade refers to the migration of some people as contract laborers to São Tomé, which happened during the authoritarian rule over Portugal and its former colonies by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

You can find quite a few versions of this song in youtube; I haven’t found any recording in which Armando Zeferino Soares takes part in, though. I think it was Cesária Evora, the barefoot diva, who made this song famous. Or maybe it’s just the first version of the song I ever listened, who knows. I really disliked her music as a child, but I’m listening to her album Miss Perfumado quite often lately. You should definitely give it a try.

I’ve also listened to Bonga’s version. Bonga is an Angolan musician who was the Portuguese record holder for the 400 metres (Angola was a Portuguese colony back then) before becoming a full-time musician. Apart from his version of Sodade, I have his first album, Angola 72, also good stuff. 

By the way, I have to admit my main source here was wikipedia, slightly rephrased to release part of the guilt I feel. But hey, many of you wouldn't have read this otherwise, would you?

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Spanish Sugar Man

This time I’m not really going to write about a band or artist I love; this post is more about a man who was... more successful than he thought at first. Let’s face it, I’m not even a fan of the artist, but I think many of you may like the story. Ok, I must admit this is the same article I just wrote for another website (which I’ll tell you about when it’s operative), but I don’t really have time for much lately. So, without further ado, here it goes: the story of Fernando García, the Spanish Sugar Man.

Although he sang in a band called Rey de Copas in the eighties, very few people in Spain know about Fernando García Sánchez and, elsewhere, the situation is pretty much the same. At least, that's what Fernando himself would have said if he had been asked three years ago, before he decided to google his own name. When he did, he couldn't have been more surprised: there were countless references to Frontera del Ensueño (Frontier of Dreams), a song that was included in his band's second album. The song hadn't even been a single at the time, but a remix changed it all.

Rey de Copas was born in 1987 and, while it wasn’t the most successful band, its members enjoyed making music. By 1988, they were recording their third studio album, but Fernando’s son had an accident (a bus pretty much destroyed his leg) and he had to spend the next ten years taking his injured son to different hospitals and doctors. By then, he had divorced and was back to writing music and giving some small gigs, with very limited success.

Fernando went on with his life, putting his musical hopes behind him. However, when he decided to google his name, he saw that Dave Ball, who was part of Soft Cell, had remixed Frontera del Ensueño for his new band, The Grid. The remix had become an international hit and he had had no idea. Theparallelism with Sixto Rodríguez, that American musician who was a star in South Africa while barely surviving in the States, is obvious.

Nowadays, 26 versions of Frontera del Ensueño have been released; many vinyls, thousands of CDs (one with 14 different versions of the song), endless downloads (the song is available on iTunes)... probably not what Fernando had been expecting. DJ Onionz, one of the people who remixed the song in the States, wrote the following words to him: “I’ve been a fan of your music and it was an honour to remix such a classic”. Fernando couldn’t believe that someone had just referred to his song as “a classic”.
Fernando García, during a recent interview (photo by Juan Carlos Toro)

Warner still receives 50% of the royalties, but when Fernando traveled to its offices, he was ignored. The company claims the matter is the responsibility of Warner Chapell, its publishing division, but Warner Chapell doesn’t want to talk about it either.

If he continues being ignored, Fernando García will take legal action against the company. For now, he continues giving guitar lessons in order to survive.

Bonus track: the "real" Sugar Man.