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SPLASH!

Splash,CAPE VERDE’S MOST SUCCESSFUL BAND
SPLASH! A CLOSE UP WITH ONE OF CAPE VERDE’S MOST SUCCESSFUL BANDS BY ANNE-MARIE DIAS BORGES

The wait is finally over! The Cape Verdean legends have been working on new material with a view to releasing their fifth album in the coming months.

Indeed, after nearly ten years spent touring the world, Splash! rekindled its romance with the recording studio and promises an opus full of their recognizable catchy melodies and a few surprises, proving that the magic is still there.

One expects this coming album to set another milestone in the musical history of the islands, just like its 4 predecessors did. After all, this is the band that literally creates “musical tsunamis” with the release of each album, changing the course of contemporary African music.

To better understand the significance of Splash! and the influence it has on its contemporaries, we need to go back to the source, the beginning, the creation…

From the start, this band has set itself apart from the rest. When it was formed in 1990, in Holland (where the musicians reside and where there is a large Cape Verdean community), it was only as a back up band performing with recording artists.

Its members came from some of the most successful Cape Verdean bands of the time, namely Livity, Rabelados, Gil & the Perfects and Dragões. It was a match made in heaven. Never before had Portuguese Africa seen so much talent in a single formation. By fusing their various styles, ideas and experience, Splash! was able to offer the eager public a new sound and a new generation of Cape Verdean music was born.

Their first album, “Simplicidade” or “Simplicity”, was released in 1996, six years after their debut as a band and was an instant hit. Two years later, “Nha Terra K’chuva” came out, the success was phenomenal. The band was awarded a Silver Record and finally achieved international recognition. Moreover, the title of this album, which translates as “my country with rain” hit a sensitive cord amongst Cape Verdeans across the world. Indeed, the islands have been plagued with periods of drought throughout its history and inadequate rainfalls remain a constant worry and subject of discussion for islanders.

“Africana, the Best of Splash!” promptly followed in 1999, consolidating the band’s fan base, before their fourth opus “Contradição” came out in 2001 – an album which showcased the full range of their musical styles, from Zouk, to Morna, Marzurka and Funana.

Splash! has not only been evolving musically but also with its band members. Today the band is comprised of Djoy Delgado, Grace Evora, Danilo Tavares, Johnny Fonseca, Dina Medina, Manu Soares and Laise Sanches. But this is a band in constant evolution, just like its music, artists Johnny Ramos, Milena Tavares, José Azancoth and more recently Denis Graça have all been part of Splash! over the past years.

One thing is for sure, each member of the group is a superstar and musical virtuoso in his or her own right. And each one of them has brought to this formation something unique, which in turns sets this band apart, one can even argue, above the rest.

Behind every great idea there is a great man, in this instance his name is Djoy Delgado, the founder and one of the two keyboard players of the group. This creative genius has worked on over 500 albums and received various prizes, notably one for Best Music Producer. He is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most renowned music composers and not a day goes by in Cape Verde when at least one of his compositions is not played on the radio. Thanks to his vision, Splash! came to life and continues to flourish.

Grace Evora, plays the drums in the band whilst enjoying a thriving musical career as a solo artist. He is currently one of Cape Verde’s most popular and prolific singers, with numerous hit singles to date, such as “Lolita” and “Isolada”. Asking him how he is able to juggle between his experiences as a lead singer when he performs as a solo artist and a drum player when he is on stage with Splash!
Grace simply declares that “it all comes together naturally, without any conflicts, because after all these years playing together, Splash! feels like a big family in which everyone respects each other – every voice is heard”.

Splash! Band, capeverdean

Danilo Tavares, bassist, is an ex-member of the famous 80’s band Rabelados. Besides playing the bass guitar in Splash! Danilo has established himself as a highly regarded music producer. His Rotterdam studio, Music Pro, is very sought after amongst recording artists and Danilo has produced hundreds of successful albums, such as “Venus 1 & 2”. According to him, Splash’s upcoming album will once again put their talent on display. He says “the fact we have been playing together for so long and know each other so well shows in our music. Our experience shines through… We are ready to resume the dialogue with our fans and show them we are still here for them”.

Singer Dina Medina, is also a very successful solo artist. In fact Splash! debuted on stage as her band in 1991, when her first solo album, “Paixão e Coração” was released. Dina, who was a member of early 90’s pop sensation band Gil & the Perfects, has recently been performing in various productions featuring Cuban and European artists. Her latest solo album, “Mornamente” offers the public a more acoustic experience, with Dina following in the footsteps of Cesaria Evora. Still, regardless of her solo success, Dina refers to Splash! as “her roots” and reassures the fans she will carry on performing both with the band and as a solo artist.

Laise Sanches is the other female vocalist. She joined Splash! five years ago and has brought with her tremendous energy. Her distinctive vocal range and charm brings great uplift to the band. Originally from the island of Santiago, Laise is able to connect further with aficionados who appreciate funana and batuku, two music styles which are traditional to that island. She is currently working on her first solo album.

Manu Soares, the other keyboard player, is another musical veteran who has been seen on stage with numerous artists. Over the years, he has established himself as one of Cape Verde’s most talented and highly regarded musicians. This native of the island of São Nicolau also commented on what makes his band special. According to him, “the band always stays true to its essence” before adding “we are like a family, we understand each other and this is our strength”.

Last but, by no means least, is Johnny Fonseca, who has been with Splash! since its creation. Johnny is arguably Cape Verde’s number one guitar player. This virtuoso who started playing in a High School reggae band attributes his amazing success to the fact that having been born in Holland he is able to add a “European flair” to his repertoire. Indeed, Johnny has managed to develop his own distinctive style of playing his instrument of predilection. For Johnny, it is the fact that Splash! “still has soul, meaning that they still continue to record albums the old fashioned way, with real instruments and real musicians”, that keeps the fans coming back for more.

It is interesting to note that almost every island of the archipelago is represented within this band, making it unique in a country where age old ethnic rivalries remain rooted in popular culture. The islands are geographically divided in two groups, often referred to as the “Sotavento” islands or the” Leeward” islands, which is the southern island group and the “Barlavento” islands or the “windward islands”. This geographic distinction is coupled with distinct variations in the culture of each island, giving way to time-old stereotypes about the two main ethnic groups, the “Badius” from the southern islands and the “Sampadjudu” from the northern part of the country.

There are notable differences between both groups, especially in the different dialects of the national Krioulo and in the various musical genres. Yet, could this pioneer fusion be the reason for Splash’s success and mass appeal? This would certainly explain why Cape Verdeans from all backgrounds appreciate and identify with the band’s music. Why change a winning formula? Thousands of fans cannot be wrong… there is something captivating about Splash! that keeps on making the public asking for more twenty years on. And rest assured the release of Splash’s newest album is set to be one of the musical highlights of 2011!

For more information on Splash! visit www.splashcvonline.com