Cabo Verde is known for its great music tradition. But what of more contemporary artists? Do they have a shot of fame? Fame maybe, but not so much fortune if they remain in the small archipelago off the coast of Senegal.
Even Cabo Verdean music legends such as Cesária Évora didn’t achieve full fame and compensation until they left the country. Now, newcomer ELL Cosme, who has just released the third single from his upcoming album, is at this career crossroads.
ELL Cosme’s first single ”Koza Sab” took over Cabo Verdean radio nationwide in a matter of days of its release. The term, which means “something sweet,” has become very popular. His second single, “Amor Na Club,” became a club hit, playing on dance floors on all nine (inhabitable) islands of Cabo Verde.
Now, ELL Cosme has come back with a slower number, a love ballad called “I Love You More,” that has already generated major attention in Cabo Verde.
ELL Cosme was born 25 years ago on the Cape Verdean island of São Nicolau, one of the Barlavento (windward) islands with a population of just over 12,000 and an economy that centers around agriculture and fishing. Much of the population of São Nicolau is rural.
After spending much of his childhood in São Nicolau, ELL Cosme moved with his family to the larger island of Sal, a major tourist destination, and then eventually to Santiago to live in the capital, Praia.
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While music was something that always fascinated him, it was in Praia that it took hold of him. As a teenager he performed in various hip hop crews, including one named Dear Flow that achieved moderate recognition.
Looking to learn more about the business of music, Cosme took a second job as the drive time DJ at one of the city’s popular radio stations, Cidade FM 91.1 Cabo Verde. There, for a few hours every day for three years he was immersed in music, music from all over the world.
Being there only further fueled his own musical ambitions. He started writing rhymes for hip-hop songs and RNZouk lyrics. RNZouk is a musical combination of American R&B and a West African musical form called Zouk.
“I wanted to do something different,” says ELL Cosme. “I love American R&B, hip hop, even some Rock. And I love the musical traditions I grew up with—so why not put it all together.” ELL Cosme combines languages as well, singling in English, Portuguese, and the two major dialects of Cabo Verdean Creole.
“Koza Sab” was written by ELL Cosme and features a rap break by fellow São Nicolau artist Matchu. ELL Cosme also penned “Amore na Club” and “I Love You More.”
ELL Cosme talks to AFKInsider about life as an artist in Cabo Verde and his international dreams.
ELL Cosme: This song is a different direction for me. In the past, I have only done RNZouk and Ghetto Zouk (a mix of hip hop and Zouk) but this is Kizomba (a dance and music originating in Angola). It took more time and more patience to put this song together but it marks an evolution for ELL Cosme.
ELL Cosme: It’s hot because you can dance together as a couple, close to each other with body contact and it speaks of love. So it’s romantic but it has a rhythm makes you dance. It’s hot in Cabo Verde, Angola, and is growing in popularity in Europe–countries like France, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Portugal, even Austria.