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Carmen Souza

World, Jazz
  • Carmen Souza
    vocals, guitar, piano
  • Theo Pascal
    bass, double bass, small percussions
  • Elias Kacomanolis
  • nn
  • ——————————-
  • also bookable as a duo or trio

The Portuguese composer, singer and instrumentalist Carmen Souza has undoubtedly become one of the most important world music artists and most sought-after jazz singers in recent years.
In her new album Port’Inglês’ (English port), Souza sings about the untold stories of the British occupation of Cape Verde in her unique style. The clarity and directness of the timbre of her voice conveys an immediate sense of vibrancy.
As the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung describes in detail in a concert review: “Souza meanders flexibly between clear melodies and scat capers, prances and jumps through octaves, performs surprising, rapid turns”.

– Jazz and Cabo Verde have never been so close –

Carmen Souza is a Portuguese singer born to Cape Verdean parents. She grew up speaking Creole and singing gospel music in the church choir. Souza partnered with bassist Theo Pascal, and they began blending Cape Verdean Creole music with contemporary jazz in 2003.

She sings in Creole, English, French, and Portuguese and transforms the traditional Cape Verde morna by adding jazz and personal invention. Souza has released several albums, including Ess ê nha Cabo Verde, Verdade, Protegid, Duo, Kachupada, and Live at Lagny Jazz Festival. Her music has won critical acclaim and earned her a reputation as one of the most talented and innovative vocalists in the present-day jazz and world music scene.

Her new album “Port’Inglês” will be released in September 2024 on Galileo Music!


Carmen Souza was born into a Cape Verdean family in Lisbon, Portugal on May 20th, 1981. Although Souza has only visited Cape Verde herself a couple of times, she grew up speaking Creole and eating Cape Verdean dishes. As a child, she sang gospel music in the church choir. Her parents kept close ties with the diaspora, so Souza was exposed to the music and culture of Cape Verde, as well as the former Portuguese colonies of Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, and São Tomé. Her father, Antonio, a merchant sailor, insisted that she learn English and German. She left college after only a year to pursue her music career.

In 1999, Souza began working with bassist Theo Pascal, who would become her mentor and continue to perform alongside her. They met when she auditioned for a music project that Pascal was directing. Initially, she performed with him in a Portuguese-language gospel choir. Souza sings and plays the piano and guitar, co-writing songs with Pascal. In 2003, they began experimenting with a style that combined Cape Verde Creole music, including the batuque, coladeira, and morna genres, with contemporary jazz. Souza typically sings in Creole because its variants allow for more flexibility in melding language with different cadences than more formal languages allow. However, she also sings in English, French, and Portuguese. Her voice has been described as “alternately chirpy and grave,” and Africa Today has called her a “soul diva voice.” Souza’s work transforms the traditional Cape Verde morna, adding jazz and personal invention, such as vocal experiments that use her pitch and tone to emulate musical instruments.

In 2005, Souza released her debut album, Ess ê nha Cabo Verde, which was the first West African-jazz blend adapted to an acoustic vibe. Her second release, Verdade (Truth), came in 2008. The album featured the duo’s blend of African and jazz music set to Wurlitzer electric piano and guitar, and won critical acclaim. A re-release of the album in 2010 by Galileo Records was included in several best world music lists for the year. Three years later, they followed up with Protegid (Protected), featuring Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and French accordionist Marc Berthoumieux with Souza on Rhodes piano, guitar, and vocals. Protegid blends Cape Verdean music with traditional jazz and includes updates on jazz standards, such as Horace Silver’s famous tune, Song for my Father. Carmen’s vocal chorus takes note by note Horace Silver’s chorus on the first version of this standard. The album was nominated for the German Record Critic’s Award and earned a ranking on the World Music Charts Europe (WMCE).

In 2012, Souza chose to donate half of the proceeds from her album, Duo (also known as London Acoustic Set), to charity. Most of the album was recorded at the Green Note Club in London with two tracks produced in 2010 at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. All of the tracks had been previously released on her other albums, but all were new, live interpretations. Kachupada, named after a type of Cape Verdean food, was her fifth album and was released the following year. Kachupada includes her version of two jazz classics, “Donna Lee” and “My Favorite Things”. She followed with an album released in 2014 called Live at Lagny Jazz Festival, which features musicians Ben Burrell on piano, Elias Kacomanolis on drums and percussion, and her music partner Pas’cal, playing acoustic and electric bass. Souza’s accolades for the album included “one of the most talented and innovative vocalists in the present-day jazz and world music scene”.


Press on “Interconnectedness”:
“Whether jazz, rock, pop or folk – her songs always create new hybrids from everything, which she performs spiritedly and with captivating charm.” Deutschlandfunk

“The Portuguese singer Carmen Souza is always on the lookout for new ways of expression. She sings, plays piano and guitar and has a special relationship with the instruments.” SWR 2

“The Cape Verdean singer dedicates her new album to the personal and global changes of recent years.” Jazzthetik

“The basic mood of the album is cheerful and relaxed…” Jazz Podium

“Nothing is reinvented here, but everything sounds fresh and full of surprises.” Folker

“A new sense of vulnerability mingles with a mood of light-heartedness and joy…” Concerto

“…a foundation of folklore, pop and the highest level of musicianship…” Acoustic Guitar

“The incredibly active Cape Verdean Carmen Souza is still committed to jazzifying the musical forms of her archipelago.” Jazz Thing Magazine

“A varied, rhythmic and fascinating disc.” inMusic

“Carmen Souza from Cape Verde and her partner Theo Pascal have created an album beyond all categories in Lisbon” Fono Forum

“11 songs that almost musically wash over you with wonderful melodies, always with this special feeling of life, with great human warmth and a driving yet very smooth rhythm that simply invites you to move, to dance” Hören und Fühlen

“A new sense of vulnerability mingles with a mood of light-heartedness and joy to cast a spell of the familiar and the fascinatingly new over the listener.” Musix Magazine

“Carmen Souza sings mostly in her native Creole language with intimacy, sensuality and vibrancy.” We Got Music

Selected press reviews of the latest album “The Silver Messengers”:

“Souza meanders flexibly between clear melodies and scat caprioles, dances and jumps through octaves, performs surprising, rapid turns.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“What Souza creates is more than fusion of two worlds, it’s simply beautiful music.” Songlines

“The acclaimed composer, singer and instrumentalist manages to give Silver’s work a new voice in order to preserve his legacy for a whole new generation (especially in the homeland of her ancestors)” Jazz Fun

“With her last album >the silver messenger< in 2019, singer and guitarist Carmen Souza (…) came closer to jazz than ever before in her homage to Horace Silver.” Jazz Podium

“Without a doubt, Carmen Souza has become one of the most important world music artists and one of the most sought-after jazz singers.” Hotjazzclub


‘Port’Inglês’ is the name of Carmen Souza’s 11th Album to be released in the spring of 2024 by Galileo Music. Port’Inglês’ (English port) is a musical tale of two Islands. The untold stories of the British occupation in Cabo Verde sang in the very unique style of Carmen Souza. Cabo Verde and Jazz have never been so close. After living in the UK for the last 15 years, Souza uses her music to deepen the unexpected connections between her motherland Cape Verde and the United Kingdom, the country that has fed her creativity for so long. This new collection of 8 songs was composed as a musical suite and is routed even more in the spirit of the Islands. The music and the lyrics re-tell the stories behind the encounter of these 2 different cultures and its impact in Cape Verde after centuries of English presence. Carmen Souza says “I took the tales told in Cape Verde as a starting point to create this musical suite. Throughout the research I did for my master’s thesis, I attempted to inhabit this historical period through music. The album touches on themes of cultural identity, resistance, and colonialism to highlight the connection between Cape Verde and the UK and address its ongoing struggle for decolonisation. Inspiration came from popular tales, tales of the sea even Sea Shantis from British Folk.”

The instrumentation fuses Lusophone influences not only in the use of traditional instruments but also in the structures, rhythms, and tone of the songs. Improvisation further blurs the boundaries between culturally specific kinds of music.  Carmen Souza’s voice shows a variety of textured registers that explore the subtleties of her expressional range. In the sound, there’s a directness and clarity that gives each song a sense of “liveness”. MA Creative Producer and composer – Theo Pascal says: “It was a priority to allow the acoustic ‘colours’ of each instrument to be realised organically without the need for extensive digital processing or effects. The use of analogue and other digital recording techniques reflects the historical nature of the stories told here”.

The music of Cape Verde is, like the peoples who inhabit the island itself, of mixed or hybrid cultural descent. Souza and Pascal’s acclaimed sound signature of blending Jazz with more traditional music/Rhythms like Funana, Contradança or Morna once again reflects the multi-layered hybridity of Cape Verde itself.

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