On a hill in the northern suburbs of Lisbon, Portugal, sits the neighborhood of Cova da Moura. Kova, or Kova M, as its residents call it, was built in the 1970s by immigrants from former Portuguese colonies in Africa, mainly Cape Verde. Cape Verdean kriolu, not Portuguese, is the lingua franca, and funana, Kriolu rap and Afro-house dominate the streets. This playlist will give you a taste of the expansive Kriolu rap scene in Kova and other Lisbon suburbs.
In our recent Afropop Closeup "Nha Mundo: The Sound of Cova da Moura," we visit the neighborhood and talk with some of the people working at the pioneering local community center, Moinho da Juventude. The focus is on Moinho's Kova M Studio. In it, the youth of Kova M turn out potent, meaningful rap and Afro-house and produce their own music videos. In doing so, they speak their truths of living in a neighborhood harshly kept in the margins of Portuguese society.
The Kova M Studio is overseen by the Moinho da Juventude community center and run by Walter Fortes, A.K.A. Cegonha, a 30-something Cape Verdean-Portuguese music producer. It is free to use for anyone in the neighborhood and has a computer, a mixer, MIDI keyboards and an isolation booth for recording voice. Whether they're currently producing tunes in the studio or got their start there many years back, most of Kova's young musicians are connected to this little space. Cover photo by Roque G.
Mynda Guevara: "Nha Mundo"
Mynda Guevara is one of the few female rappers in Kova, and is one of the best overall. She has rich lyrics, a fierce flow and hefty serving of mettle. She got her start in the Kova M Studio.
Samba KF with Benny Desbloqueado: "Dal Po"
Samba was born in Guinea Bissau and grew up in Kova. He makes Afro-house in the Kova M Studio and sings in Guinea Bissau kriolu, which makes him unique.
Mynda Guevara: "Ken Ki Fla"
Kova M Studio Kids
This is more a fun jam than a fully fledged song, but it gives you a sense of how the Kova M studio is loved by the neighborhoods kids and the creativity they can channel through it. And you can see how slick the studio is in the video. The next few songs are tracks made in the studio by some of the younger set of Kova kids.
Kova M: "Vaga KF"
Rafa R.K.S. and Marivs: "Sima Nu Gosta Vivi"
Rafa and Marivata are two Kova teens who have been working with Cegonha in the Kova M studio. This was written, produced and recorded entirely in the studio.
Cindy: "Broken Trust"
Cindy is one of the few Kova artists who sings in English, which makes her a sought after collaborator.
LBC Souljah: "Tudu Pobri é Um Soldjah"
LBC Souljah is one of the more veteran Kova rappers, and one of the most explicitly political. His songs expose how Portuguese and global systems of power intersect to keep people down. LBC, who works at the Moinho da Juventude community center, advocates for unity, community support and organized resistance. This song title means "All the poor is a soldier."
LBC Souljah and Chullage: "Amilcar"
Chullage is also a veteran, actually regarded by some as one of the first to rap in kriolu, back in the early 1990s. He's from the other side of the Teju River, but kriolu rap bridges boundaries. On this track with LBC Souljah, they sing homage to Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the Cape Verde/Guinea Bissau independence movement.
LBC Souljah: "Guetto Aljazeera"
MC Souljah: "Deus Tristi"
Kova M ft. Landim: "Vida Marginal"
The rap crew called Kova M got its start in the Kova M studio and represent the young generation of rappers from the neighborhood. The crew has included Dany G, Puto G, Lury, Ridell and others. This song features Landim, a popular kriolu rapper from another Lisbon suburb.
Puto G: "Hey"
Tragically, Puto G and Dany G, two of the most promising rising stars, passed away in the past year, Dany G from a motorcycle accident, and Puto G from a swimming accident in a lake in Luxembourg. Descansa em paz.
Puto G: "Mentaliza"
The next batch of artists are Afro-Portuguese rappers from around the Lisbon suburbs. All of them rap or sing in Kriolu, mostly Cape Verdean kriolu. Kriolu rap has soared in popularity recently--according to Cegonha at the Kova M Studio, there may even be more white Portuguese listening to kriolu rap than Cape Verdean-Portuguese. There are even some white Portuguese rappers who now rap in kriolu.
Beto Di Ghetto: "Caminho é Pa Dianti"
Rafa G: "Pensamentos Obscuros"
Xina RBL: "Tardi Pa Bu Txora"
Né Jah: "Pake Minti"
Loreta KBA: "Ncre Bai També"
Gang Más Ki Ás with Vado Más Ki Ás: "Qual é Tendecia"
Landim: "Real Dimas"
Apollo G with Garry: “Tempo Antigo”
Apollo G was born to Cape Verdean parents in another Lisbon suburb, but grew up in London. He's one of the most popular Kriolu rappers from Portugal.
Apollo G: "Sendi Bu Ganza"
Chullage "Sr Preto": "Da Hype"
As mentioned before, Chullage is one of the most veteran and most political kriolu rappers. But he's not tied down to one thing. We met him in Lisbon after he performed as part of a wild, innovative funana-punk band called Scuru Fitchadu. This track is almost a dissertation on the state of global society.
Gradur with Black M: "Illégal"
Gradur is French, but he shot this video in Cova da Moura. Like the Bronx or the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Kova is maligned by the state but treated with this kind of reverent, yet fearful, fascination by rap lovers and musicians. Big-name foreign rappers come here to shoot videos, looking for an authentically gritty neighborhood to serve as a backdrop. Even artists from neighborhoods like Kova who have made it big and moved out return to these streets to shoot videos, perhaps to replenish their cred. Mima, our guide in Kova, organizes these video shoots. He helped with this one and the next.
This is a video by an American DJ, MK, and was also shot in Kova. Mima is in here at 0:34.
There is much, much more to be heard. Give a listen to our Closeup podcast, "Nha Mundo," to get a sense of Kova M. If you want more kriolu rap, go to one of these videos on YouTube and just start clicking on suggested songs. The rabbit hole is endless.