This article addresses the place of music and expressive practice in the production of a social memory of the Cape Verdean diaspora of São Tomé and Príncipe in the late period of Portuguese colonial rule (1940-74). This contrasts the poetics and aesthetics of recorded popular songs depicting São Tomé‘s experience with the biographical narratives of indentured labourers who were also musicians on São Tomé‘s plantations. The songs became critical both to politically defining the Cape Verdean diasporic self and to questioning the legacies of indentured labour regimes in the postcolonial present. In their trajectory from an ‘archive’ to a ‘repertoire’, the songs also came to embody the experience of a diasporic present. In contrast, the subaltern narratives of migrant musicians account for historically available idioms of subjectivity wherein music practices and socialities are inscribed in an ethics of survival. Besides deepening historical knowledge on São Tomé‘s diaspora, these ‘subaltern pasts’ assert an ethical space which allowed individuals to supersede the violence of the colonial labour regime of São Tomé.
- Cape Verde
- Social memory