The structure of a funaná composition is not very different than the structure of other musical genres in Cape Verde, i.e., basically the music is structured through a set of main strophes that alternate with a refrain. The main difference is that between the different strophes and the refrain there is a solo played on the accordion. The music is generally monotonic.
The melodic line of the funaná varies a lot through the composition, with a lot of series of ascending and descending notes. The funaná singers occasionally use the sforzando technique in certain notes, specially if they are long (imitation of the accordion?).
The lyrics of the funaná generally talk about everyday situations, mentioning the sores and the happiness of quotidian life, but they also talk about social criticism, reflections about life and idyllic situations. Recent composers however have expanded the themes. Another characteristic of funaná is that the lyrics are not made in a direct way, but frequently use figures of speech, proverbs and popular sayings. Example:
|lyrics in Creole:||word by word translation to English:||real meaning:|
| Ódju mó’ lua, (…)|
Pistána sí’ma árcu-dâ-bédja
Bóca sí’ma câ tâ cúme nada
Ôi, Séma Lópi, côrpu dí tchõ, álma dí Crístu
| Eyes like the moon, (…)|
Eyebrows like the rainbow
Mouth like doesn’t eat anything
Oh, Sema Lopi, body of ground, soul of Christ
| Open wide eyes, (…)|
Completely arched eyebrows
Mouth of who starves
Oh, Sema Lopi, everybody steps on you, but you forgive everyone
|Excerpt of the lyrics of “Sema Lopi”.|
That requires a good knowledge of popular culture and language, and that’s why recent compositions, compositions from younger authors or compositions from authors with little contact with popular culture do not always use this poetry technique.
Concerning instrumentation, in its most traditional form, the funaná only uses the accordion and the ferrinho. With the stylization and electrification other instruments are used: the rhythm provided by the ferrinho is made on a drum set together with other percussion instruments (a shaker or a cabasa); the bass/accompaniment played on the accordion is replaced by a bass guitar and an electric guitar; the melody played on the accordion is replaced by a synthesizer. By the end of the 90’s, there is a certain revival where the unplugged (acoustic) performances are sought after, in which electronic instruments are relegated in favor to authentic accordions and ferrinhos.
Other sources, also from oral tradition, trace back an other origin. They place the origins of the funaná in the increase of accordion importations as a cheap substitute for organs to play religious music. The funaná would have then appeared as an adaptation for the accordion of other musical genres that were in vogue then.
The name “funaná” itself is also recent, and dates back probably from the 60’s and 70’s. For some, the word derives from the Portuguese word “fungagá”. For others the name comes from the merging of the names of two great players, one of accordion and the other of ferrinho, named Funa and Naná. The older words for designating the funaná were “fuc-fuc” and “badju l’ gaita”.
Initially a genre exclusively from Santiago, for a long time the funaná was relegated to a rural context and/or for the less favourished social classes. It has even been forbidden its performance in the capital, where it was the morna that had a more prestigious and noble character.
But during the 70’s, and mostly after the independence, there had been essays of reviving certain musical genres, among them the funaná. The post-independence socialist ideology, with its struggle against the social classes differences, was a fertile field for the (re)birth of the funaná. These essays weren’t successful mostly because “the funaná couldn’t step away from the coladeira”.
It was necessary to wait for the 80’s in order the band Bulimundo and specially its mentor Carlos Alberto Martins (a.k.a. Catchás) make a true revival of the funaná. Going to “drink” directly to the source (inner Santiago island), Catchás profited his jazz and classical music knowledge to make up a new style of playing the funaná, leaning in electric and electronic instruments, that would influence nearly all artists from now on. Thanks to the success of Bulimundo, the funaná was exported to all the islands in Cape Verde. Today, the funaná is no longer seen as a genre exclusively from Santiago, being composed, performed and appreciated by people from all the islands.
If the 80’s were the years of the spreading of the funaná within Cape Verde, the 90’s were the years of the internationalization. The band Finaçon, born from a split of the band Bulimundo, was one of the responsible for the internationalization of this genre, thanks to a contract with a renowned foreign record label. Not only the funaná had become known internationally, but it is also performed by musical bands abroad, being cape verdean bands or not.
Concerning musical techniques there are no big innovations to the “Catchás’ style”, maybe perhaps only regarding the instrumentation (the possibilities of electronic instruments are explored). We can also notice, in this period, the excessive commercialization and banalization of the funaná. For instance, during a certain year, there has been an attempt of disclosing the funaná in France. That attempt was not successful because funaná was sold as a kind of “summer in-vogue music” (right after the lambada), and not exploring the ethno-musical particularities of the funaná.
By the end of the 90’s, we can assist to a return to the roots, where the bands prefer to perform with authentic accordions and ferrinhos (occasionally a bass, a drum set and/or a guitar is added). One of the leading bands of this new vague is the band Ferro Gaita.