Living in Lisbon, Tito Paris has been an active participant in the emergence of Cape Verde music. A fine guitarist, songwriter and singer with a sunny swing, he carries the joyful or melancholy of Cape Verde music everywhere.
When Cesária Évora recorded her first album, Tito Paris was there. He wrote a song for her ('Regresso'), conceived arrangements and played numerous instruments. This was a step, a memorable moment, but not the beginning. His history and involvement in music go back way before that-in fact, to the very day of his birth (30th May 1963) in Mindelo, the principal city on the island of São Vicente. When you're born into a family where everyone is somewhat musical, it's hard to escape music.
Not having any more resistance than the next guy, Tito Paris also succumbed. He had music in his heart as much as in his soul. If he strolls down memory lane, he remembers his escapades in bars, unbeknownst to his mother, taking advantage of his father's absences. Tito was always dragging around his guitar on which his sister had taught him a first chord.
He played with his brothers and cousin Bau, already quite skilful on the cavaquinho and who would also become famous later on. He profited from the advice, know-how and acquaintances of the clarinettist Luis Morais and the pianist Chico Serra. After the night clubs, cafés and cabarets of Mindelo, Tito Paris was going to be born a second time.
At the age of 19, he left for Lisbon, summoned by Bana, a great Cape Verdean singer who had settled there and who brought him to Portugal to play in his group, Voz de Cabo Verde. From that moment on, with his head full of dreams, Tito Paris began his great adventure. It began with a brief disappointment: he thought he was going to play bass, but was offered drums.
He was on the point of giving up and even going back to Cape Verde, when chance smiled on him. The bass player left, and Tito was able to take his place. Four years passed, and he decided it was time to leave Voz de Cabo Verde, with which he had grown up musically, thanks in particular to Paulinho Viera.
He became one of the most prominent names on the Cape Verde scene in Lisbon, as well as one of the most sought-after musicians, accompanying the finest, like Dany Silva, who encouraged him to take up the guitar definitively. He would also be seen collaborating with numerous Portuguese artists, including Rui Veloso.
In 1985, he produced his first album. This was solely instrumental record and focussed the spotlight on his talents as a guitarist. He formed his own group and, in 1994, recorded Dança mi criola, by which he made himself known throughout the Cape Verde community.
It also became, and has remained, up to the present day, his favourite song, the one everyone requests in concert. In Lisbon, he frequently performed in the cellar of the Enclave, his restaurant-club, or at B. Leza, another meeting place of the African community in the capital. This disc was followed by Graça de Tchega in 1996, then two live albums, including 27 de Julio 1990, which was released last year.
Between these various recordingshis travels took him from Oslo to New York and from Louisiana to Paris.
Guilhermina, the new album, prolongs the pleasure of the previous ones or, even better, magnifies it and gives it wings. Here, gorged with the blues, his voice asserts itself, present and instinctive, while the guitar displays an eloquence ever more fascinating. From inexpressible melancholy to coarse hip-swaying, with large traits of sadness and fruited scents.
All of that is to be found in Guilhermina, i.e., mornas tinged with saudade, that sorrowful serenity, that nostalgia that constantly imbues Cape Verdean music, but also coladeiras and funana, joyous propositions and temptations to dance. Tito Paris adapts these emblematic styles of Cape Verde in his own fashion.
Accompanied by his regular group, joined by numerous guests artists and a string quartet, he slows down or speeds up the rhythm, here introducing an Angolan rhythm, there another from northern Portugal, making a detour by Mozambique or evoking the samba of Brazil.
Although he is anxious to preserve the singularity, the Creole genius and the tradition of the music of Cape Verde, Tito Paris, an enthusiastic volunteer ambassador of the musical soul of his country, also knows how to open doors and windows and build bridges. He invents without ever forgetting where he comes from.