What’s this? Just some sweet, sweet Lusophonic magic, from the great African island nation of Cabo Verde. Music fitting that jaw-dropping album cover. The self-titled debut from brothers Gérard Mendés (also known as Boy Gé Mendes) and Jean-Claude Mendés displays the intriguing combination of Creole Portuguese-African polyrhythms, American boogie, and Brazilian samba the duo became huge stars among the Cabo Verde diaspora (and we somehow lost to time).
Although born to parents from Cabo Verde, it was their parents emigration to the African country of Senegal (in the cosmopolitan city of Dakar, where they were actually born) that exposed their sons to all sorts of traditions that made up their polychromatic vision of funk music. By the time they arrived in New York City to record this, their debut, the two brothers had absorbed so many bits and piece of far-flung ideas from far-flung places into the swift-tempo groove of Cape Verdean music, that one spin of this debut is simply all it took to take you across their absorbing scope.
A tour de force for Gérard Mendés’s intricate guitar and lead vocal work, and for brother Jean-Claude’s ridiculously groovy percussion rhythms, Mendes & Mendes, tries to be an analog in the opposite view, the mirrored image of Jorge Ben’s Africa Brasil. It was to show the influence of the African diaspora searching outward, at places they had long ago migrated to. For a brief moment in time, the Mendes brothers had made it big in France headlining a group called the Cabo Verde Show entirely devoting itself to the Cape Verdean sound. Mendes e Mendes, the group they formed after disbanding that group, allowed them the freedom to explore other Western African sounds and to roll in the influence of far-flung Portuguese bases in the Caribbean and Brazil. It’s something they only could have done by willing to go elsewhere.
Equal parts dreamy, funky, complex, and spirited Mendes & Mendes sounds like little else at the time because it was clearly a product of an unique set of circumstances. Only the free migration of people looking beyond their diaspora could have created something this uncalculated and jaw-dropping gorgeous. Songs sung in a unique Portuguese-French creole mix, tries to twist their phrasing to match music simply trying to be everything a set of two brothers who have nothing to judge themselves against, could be. African, Creole, Portuguese, and French, they were all that, at once. So sweet. So elegant. So ridiculously funky and sublime. Mitamiyo da banka, alright!