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Rabasa (Cape Verde)

Rabasa is a typical exponent of the Cape Verdian diaspora. They have lived in the vicinity of the Dutch harbour city of Rotterdam for many years now. In this city the success of a band that is now a respected guest of international podia and festivals, started.

Rabasa plays a variety of genres of the warm Cape Verdean music. The alluring and distinctive vocal sounds of Cape Verdean music, which can be moving one moment and swinging the next, are accompanied by acoustic instruments such as guitar, cavaquinho, diatonic accordion and percussion.

The music of Rabasa is deeply rooted in the musical traditions of Cape Verde. Over the years, Rabasa has developed its own sound based on these traditions. The repertoire takes the listener on a tour of the different genres of Cape Verdean music, from the melancholy morna to the steamy funana.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde is a string of ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of Senegal. It was an unpopulated group of volcanic islands settled by the Portuguese around 1460 and which functioned as a trading outpost and bunker for the trade between the continents in slaves and goods. From these origins a new people arose, the modern-day Cape Verdean, the product of a melting pot of different races and cultures.

The seafaring Portuguese and Dutch populated the seven seas; for the Cape Verdeans, life was hard and the sea was their only means of escape, and many were forced to sign on with passing ships. In the Dutch, the Cape Verdeans found a good employer, but after the hard economic times at the beginning of the seventies, many were forced to establish themselves on dry land, including in Rotterdam, home port to many Dutch shipping companies. They brought with them not only their families, but their culture and rich musical traditions.


The Rotterdam-based brothers João, Jorge, Tó and Angelito Ortet come from a farmer’s family from the little village of Rui Vaz on the island of Santiago, and make up the group’s core. Inspired by their older brothers Lindo and Emanuel, they began playing music at a very early age. They performed music and theatre in church and learned the tricks of the trade from their brothers and from playing with the older people in the village.

For many people on Cape Verde, the process of gathering water is a daily ritual, as it was for the Ortet brothers who each day had to trek many kilometres from their house in a breathtaking green mountaintop area to the water source. Rabasa is the name of an old water source near Rui Vaz. This water source played an important role in the Ortet brothers’ childhood years, and so the name Rabasa symbolises the source of the rich Cape Verdean musical traditions, which are the basis and the inspiration for the music of Rabasa.

Rabasa’s origins also lie in Rotterdam, and the city’s multicultural society is reflected in the band members. Alongside the Ortet brothers, the band consists of vocalist Terezinha Fernandes of S. Lourenco dos Orgaos (Santiago), the young, talented Cape Verdean musician Paulo Bouwman, trumpet player Kabiné Traoré (Tagus) of Guinea Conakry, and percussionist Hans de Lange, who was born in Rotterdam. Tagus formerly performed for many years in the legendary group les Ambassadeurs, one of the members of which was Salif Keita. Hans has a rich background in playing Cape Verdean music, having performed extensively with Americo Brito and been featured in concerts in the Netherlands by Bana, Ildo Lobo, Luis Morais, Manuel d’ Novas, Djozinha, Titina, Belinda and others. In addition Hans can be heard regularly as percussionist with Capeverdian popbands. Paulo is graduated as Guitar player at the Codarts conservatorium at Rotterdam.

Rabasa endeavours to disseminate Cape Verdean culture. Not only by playing music in concert halls and at festivals but also by giving classes on Cape Verdean culture and transferring knowledge of Cape Verdean music to young people. Music is an essential part of life of the Cape Verdeans. There are no celebrations, family events or church services without music. In this sense, Rabasa is part of a living tradition, one that is alive even in Rotterdam.