Teofilo Chantre

1964 – CAPE VERDE

Biography

Born in 1964 on the island of Sao Nicolau, Teofilo Chantre came with his family, 1 year old to the island São Vicente to the town of Mindelo, the cultural centre of the islands. His father Vitorinho Chantre used to write lyrics for different composers, among them Armandio Cabral, the composer of the classic “Sodade” by Cesaria Evora.

Teofilo came to France at the age of 13 and began teaching himself to play the guitar and to write his own music. At 17 he discovered traditional music through his joint African and Portuguese background and started to play in local-community festivals.
In 1991 the producer Jose da Silva accepted three of his songs for Cesaria Evora’s biggest hit album “Miss Perfumado”. On “São Vicente di longe”, Teofilo Chantre provided no fewer than five songs. In 1995 Cesaria again chose one of his songs for Emir Kusturica’s film “Underground”.

It has often been said of Teofilo Chantre that he “appeared in the shadow of Cesaria Evora” before making a name with his own records. The expression used should be corrected, since it is hard to imagine an art as bright as that of the great lady of Cape Verde spreading anything other than light.

Since 1993, the four albums he has released in his own name (“Terra & Cretcheu” – 1993, “Di Alma” – 1997, “Rodatempo” – 2000, “Live” – 2002) have made him increasingly famous. There is a Teofilo “style”, which cannot be summed up as just Cape Verdean “authenticity”. Indeed, Teofilo Chantre has lived in France for more than twenty-five years and the diversity of his musical tastes – ranging from Bossa Nova to the classical boleros of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean – have shaped his ear and heart, opening them to wider horizons. All his influences are marvellously distilled in a writing whose melodic obviousness (his refrains often seem immediately familiar) is fully equal to its great harmonic sophistication. Suddenly, given modulations, given passages in distant keys, bring delightful surprises. And while most of his songs are steeped in “sodade” – Cape Verde’s unique insular melancholy – the elegant swing of his coladeras reminds us that dancing is still one of the finest antidotes for sadness.