Journey of the Badiu:
The Story of Cape Verdean-
American Musician Norberto Tavares

directed by Susan Hurley-Glowa
(independent, 2007)

Norberto Tavares has a musical gift and a social conscience. Once combined, the course of this native Cape Verdean was clear.

Now 50 and living in New Bedford, Mass., Tavares traveled to Lancaster, Pa., on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006, to watch the world premier of movie telling his story -- and he watched it with a great deal of interest and excitement.

"It's a good feeling," he said after the evening show at Barshinger Center, Franklin & Marshall College. "I'm very satisfied."

The movie, Journey of the Badiu: The Story of Cape Verdean-American Musician Norberto Tavares, was written and directed by F&M music professor Susan Hurley-Glowa, who met Tavares while studying among the Cape Verdean population in New England and made her first visit to the archipelago nation in 1991.

Cape Verde, comprising 10 islands and about eight islets, lies about 300 miles off the west coast of Africa. Uninhabited when it was discovered in Portuguese explorers in 1456, it was quickly colonized by European settlers and, because it became a stopping point during slaving voyages of that era, became home to a mix of European and African cultures. After gaining its independence from Portugal in 1975, Cape Verde elected its first democratic government in 1991.

Through much of the nation's political turmoil in the last few decades, Tavares -- born in 1956 on the island of Santiago -- has been an ambassador of Cape Verde's musical traditions and, through his music, a champion of social justice and the rights of the poor.

The movie details the styles of Cape Verdean music, such as the unique forms of morna and funana. The accordion and guitar are the most common instruments, although other instruments are used and hand percussion is quite common.

But Tavares, as other island musicians attested in interviews, took the traditional forms in new directions -- and always with a political subtext in his lyrics.

So, while the movie spotlights social issues in Cape Verde and interviews residents about them -- particularly regarding gender relations -- Tavares' music fills the screen in a montage of concert and studio clips, along with the sharp hip gyrations of popular dance. Other Cape Verde musicians also are interviewed about Tavares' influence on them and their music.

Making the movie was fulfilling, Tavares said -- and quite a lot of work. "There was 29 hours of tape to be reduced to 50 minutes," he said.

For ethnomusicologist Hurley-Glowa, the project started 16 years ago, when she met Tavares in Rhode Island. "I wasn't aware of just how important Norberto was until the last four or five years," she said. "Then I started to realize he was an important national hero."

The movie still needs some editing work, she noted, and will be officially released sometime in 2007.

by Tom Knapp
24 February 2007