News from Cape Verde, Angola & Mozambique

Djunga de Biluca and Jeffrey Silva

Hi Jeffrey and Djunga, could you please tell the readers of Atlantico Weekly who you are? (Jeffrey) My name is Jeffrey Silva, born 25 years ago in Rotterdam. I studied information technologies for a while, but I quickly switched fields and started to take management classes. Communication sciences always intrigued me, so I started to search for jobs within this branch. I have worked for several companies in Customer Care and Sales. I coached employees on their verbal skills and I have been leading teams as a supervisor.

(Djunga) And I am João Silva, also known as Djunga de Biluca. I am Jeffrey’s grandfather, 83 years old and born on São Vicente. In 1949 I came for the first time to the Netherlands. I worked as an engineer on various Dutch merchant ships and I was based in the Netherlands since 1955. I married a Dutch girl in 1958 and ended up working ashore. Soon I started to help Cape Verdeans who arrived in Rotterdam and needed a place to stay and other assistance.

I set up Morabeza Records in the 1960s. Morabeza Records owes its existence entirely to the struggle for independence of our country. I had wanted to join the war, but in 1962 Amílcar Cabral, our freedom fighter, asked me to become the representative of the PAIGC (the independence movement of Cape Verde and Guine-Bissau and the forerunner of the PAICV) in the Netherlands. Furthermore, Amílcar felt that it was important that we did not lose our culture during and after the struggle for independence. What would a free Cape Verde be without its music? He also wanted to use our culture and music as a weapon to promote our cause. So I was asked not only to represent Cape Verde, but also to support our artists. In those days Capeverdean music was completely unknown to the world. I brought together a great number of artists from Cape Verde and Europe, as well as musicians from Senegal, Angola and Brazil and started making records. I invested all my time and money in the production of our music. That was far from easy! Having no business experience whatsoever, I had to organize and finance everything (instruments, recordings, etc), from scratch. Now, thanks to Morabeza Records, Capeverdean music is known all over the world. The very first Capeverdean record in history was launched by Morabeza in 1965 (Caboverdianos na Holanda). It was followed by many others. The first record of Cesária Évora was made here in Rotterdam. Morabeza also founded Voz de Cabo Verde, a famous band from that period. I was awarded knighthoods for my work from both the Dutch Queen (Ridder in the Orde van Oranje-Nassau) as well as the Cape Verde government.

Could you tell us more about present day Morabeza Entertainment? (Jeffrey) Morabeza Entertainment is the rebirth of Morabeza Records, led by my grandfather Djunga de Biluca, for 100%. I have witnessed everything concerning Morabeza Records from my childhood up. One day I asked my grandfather how he felt about restarting Morabeza. I have noticed that in my direct environment there still is a big need to maintain our culture. Here in Holland for instance, some 90% of Capeverdean-Dutch under the age of 25 do not know their history. They do not know who Aristides Pereira was, nor in what year we became independent. There is hardly any knowledge of our roots whatsoever, though most of us do know artists like Tito Paris, Cesária Evora, Rene Cabral, Gil, Zeca, Lura…etc. This means that there are ways to reach this group, which is – like in the old days – through music!

(Djunga) Jeffrey hit the nail on its head. I wanted to revitalize Morabeza for a long time. I had to distance myself from it when I became the first Consul-General of Cape Verde in the Netherlands after independence. As a diplomat it is not possible to engage in business activities. But I have kept most recordings and I have meanwhile digitalized 320 tapes. In the past few years there were several potential buyers from Angola and the USA. But Morabeza Records is our cultural heritage and can not be bought by foreign investors. For some years we worked on setting up a joint venture between Cape Verde and Netherlands. This was supposed to be a bi-national foundation run by various officials. The plan may have been to complicated, because it came to nothing so far. But I have invested everything to make the world know Cape Verde music and I do not want to wait any longer!

Jeffrey, why do you want to become an entrepreneur? For multiple reasons. First of all, success to me is mandatory and I am confident that the only way to be successful is to do it all by yourself. I want to sincerely earn that what I have worked for and the only way to do this is through entrepreneurship. The second reason is that I believe that you can work all year round for an employer but at the end of the month, you will end up with the same amount of salary that you earned the month before.

Could you name one of your highlights or successes? (Jeffrey) I think that success is still to come for Morabeza Entertainment. Right now we are in the start up phase. My dream is that one day Morabeza Entertainment will be considered as a true follow up of Morabeza Records by the big names in the industry.

What are your future plans? (Jeffrey) We are going to asses all old material and remarket that. This will take time, considering the large amount of legal hoops tied to this. After that we want to translate my grandfathers book (in English: From Ribeira Bote to Rotterdam) from Portuguese to Dutch, English and French so his story can reach a wider audience. But at Morabeza Entertainment we will target to reach a larger crowd still by telling the various stories coming from different countries and different cultures that have also experienced some sort of struggle. Think about broadening our views to Latin music, Neo Soul, as well as political hip hop.

Thank you Djunga and Jeffrey, that is a fascinating story!