Earlier this year, German record label Analog Africa released Space Echo, a compilation of dancefloor hits produced in the 70s and 80s on the small island of Cabo Verde. The collection of aptly-named cosmic sounds blends contemporary traditional Cabo Verde rhythms like mornas, coladeras and funaná with the electronic touch of vintage synthesizers. While the album itself is an incredible piece of art, its origin is just as amazing, beginning, as many great stories do, with a shipwreck.
On the 20th of March, 1968, a cargo ship set sail from Baltimore, carrying an assortment of some of the newest electronic gadgets in the music world. Its goods were to be displayed at EMSE (Exposição Mundial Do Son Eletrônico), a highly anticipated music exhibition in Rio de Janeiro. For reasons unclear, contact with the ship was lost and it disappeared from the radar shortly after departing.
Several months later, villagers in the town of Cachaço were shocked to find a ship devoid of crew, stranded in their fields eight kilometers away from the coast. Colonial officials descended on the scene and reached a simple conclusion: the ship had fallen from the sky. As would be expected, the story gave rise to numerous rumors surrounding its origin– everything from mystical cosmic particles to Russian military aircrafts. To this day, a full explanation has not yet been issued. Though the mysterious vessel’s appearance was likely the work of a magnificent storm, the idea of a ship descending from the heavens provides a much more intriguing narrative.
Eventually, the locals broke open the containers to find within a variety of high-quality synthesizers and electronic keyboards. What good were they on a small island without electricity? Revolutionary theoretician and anti-colonial leader Amílcar Cabral insisted that rather than scrapping the cargo it should instead be distributed across the country to schools with electricity. A more receptive audience could not be found; the synthesizers were eagerly taken up by curious children across the country. They combined some of the only songs they had access to, traditional melodies and rhythms, and fed them through synthesizers to create a cosmic sound – hence the birth of Space Echo. For a country newly liberated from Portuguese rule (Cabo Verde achieved political independence in 1975), it provided a unique outlet for postcolonial expression. Indeed, most of the artists on the compilation were kids in these schools who developed their craft and made names for themselves in the music world.
The album truly comprises a melting pot of sounds, dialoguing with funk, Latin rock, psychedelia and Caribbean influences. It is hard to capture its essence in few words, but each song carries a characteristically vibrant rhythm— delving deeper into the individual components reveals connections with soul, Afrobeat and R&B to name a few among the cornucopia of musical flavors present. With tunes that interlace ambient beats and heady drum patterns, Space Echo truly takes you on a musical journey through nebulae of time and space.