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Cape Verdean roots run soul deep

- Carmen Souza, Capilano University Centre for the Performing Arts, Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. Tickets $32/$29.

- Carmen Souza, Capilano University Centre for the Performing Arts, Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. Tickets $32/$29.

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Cape Verdean musician Carmen Souza opens Capilano University's fall arts season tomorrow night with a show at the Centre for the Performing Arts.

Born in Lisbon to first generation Cape Verdean immigrants Souza bridges two worlds with a modernist perspective on folkloric roots. Her latest album, Protegid, features lyrics sung entirely in Cape Verdean Creole. Her sound has a little bit of everything influenced by genres that have gone back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean several times. Horace Silver's hard bop funk meets Cape Verde's African roots in a Lisbon café.

Currently touring North America with a trio Souza spoke to the North Shore News from California where her band had performances before heading north.

North Shore News: What's the Cape Verdean community like in Lisbon?

Carmen Souza: It's a community that's been there for years and years. My parents generation is now 60-plus and there's been a big development over generations. There are really strong relations between Portugal and Cape Verde and it's just like home with the same language. I grew up in a community like that. In my time, in the '80s, there weren't that many Cape Verdeans in the area where we lived but within the family we had that environment and culture. I grew up with both sides -- the Cape Verdean side and the European side.

North Shore News: Where were your parents from?

Carmen Souza: They are from Santo Antão, the greenest island in Cape Verde. It has a lot of big mountains and is very beautiful actually. They moved to Portugal in their early 20's -- like many Cape Verdeans they went in search of better conditions for their lives. They got married there. They spoke Creole with me and I would respond back to them in Portuguese. It was a whole big mixture. I always understood Creole because it was the language that I grew up listening to. I could understand and I could speak it. Now all of my lyrics are in Creole as well.

North Shore News: How did you get involved in music?

Carmen Souza: My parents are Christian and I went to church every Sunday listening to gospel music and Cape Verdean music. Also my father played the guitar. It was in 2001 that I met Theo Pas'cal, the musical director, who has been working with me for 10 years. He really got me into doing music and going deeper on the music side. I started to work on his projects. He was already an established musician in Portugal and he taught me a lot of things and opened my mind to a lot of things such as jazz. That's how I grew up musically.

North Shore News: Where did Theo see you perform?

Carmen Souza: I was auditioning for a gospel choir and he was the musical director at that time. I was chosen in the audition and that's where everything started. He invited me to work on several other projects that he had.

North Shore News: How do you write songs with Theo?

Carmen Souza: We compose together and it's been like this for 10 years. It's basically creating conversations between the two of us. The songs and lyrics come from what you live daily and the music is just transpiring from that. It's been a very natural process and a very comfortable environment to work with.

North Shore News: Where did you record Protegid?

Carmen Souza: Protegid was recorded in several places because we were touring at the time. We wouldn't have much time to get into a studio so we took a mobile studio with us and recorded in Canada, in France, in New York. It was so much better to record the album like that because it became really special. It had a lot of different elements from different places. That was the way. We'll record that way again. It gives the album a whole different sound with different energies and different inspirations.

North Shore News: A lot of different flavours on the record -- how was it working with all the musicians?

Carmen Souza: They had no boundaries in terms of music and we like that. And we also made sure that they all had their own personal thing on the album. We wanted them to come and show their own personal experience and their own musicality about where they were coming from. We had the pleasure to work with Omar Sosa, a great pianist from Cuba, Marc Berthoumieux, an accordion player from France, and so many others. It was a blessing.

North Shore News: Who's coming with you on tour?

Carmen Souza: We have Theo Pas'cal on bass and double bass, of course, and then we have Jonathan Idiagbonya, who is a Nigerian U.K.-based piano player -- they call him the Oscar Peterson from Africa -- and we have a Brazilian drummer, Mauricio Zottarelli, who has been in New York for quite awhile.

North Shore News: Most of the material on Protegid is original but you chose to do two covers -- "Sodade" and "Song for My Father." How did you choose those two?

Carmen Souza: "Sodade" is like the Cape Verdean hymn you know and so I decided to include the best of my roots and the best of my influences.

"Sodade" is a song that has spread around the world and everybody knows it to be Cape Verdean. You can't speak about Cape Verde and not speak about "Sodade." Horace Silver was a great pianist who inspires me a lot and he had Cape Verdean origins as well. I do "Song for My Father" and I transcribed the piano solo on his album and made lyrics in Creole dedicating the song to my father as Horace Silver dedicated to his.

North Shore News: Have you been to Vancouver before?

Carmen Souza: I played on Vancouver Island in 2006. It was a great adventure but we didn't have much time to see things so I'm looking forward to this trip.