They call her the diva, the music queen of Guinea-Bissau. With a bright smile, a calm step and a full voice she has used for almost 20 years to make 2 dreams come true. The first is to take the sound of her country – one of Africa’s least known sounds – to the world. The second, and what she considers her mission, is to make children’s live a little better. She was a UNICEF ambassador for that very reason and left her position because she felt tied up. Along the way, music, always. Her fifth album “Ibra” was released in 2019.
Eneida Marta was born in 1972, a year before Guinea-Bissau gained independence and the leader of the independence struggle Amilcar Cabral was murdered by order of the Portugese secret service. Despite these turbulent times, she says she had a carefree and happy childhood in newly independent Guinea-Bissau. Although Eneida Marta was born and raised in Bissau, she has a mixed background with a Cape Verdean father and ancestors from Portugal, Cape Verde. Sao Tomé and even Germany. After primary school she followed secudary education at Regional 2 and Kwame N’krumah secondary schools. As a young girl she loved to sing and she participated in singing competitions at school. While her classmates wanted to become a doctor or a lawyer, Eneida dreamed of a career as a policewoman, and if it didn’t work out, as a singer.
At the age of 17 she left for Portugal to make her dream come through. After anaother 2 years of schooling, she registered for the police school and was invited for an entrance test. Yet she never ended up at the police academy, because during the admission phase it turned out that Eneida had unexpectedly become pregnant. Due to the motherhood of a first and later a second child, Eneida no longer thougt of a music career for a long time. Only after 10 years at the age of thirty her musical dream reawakened. She started looking for people who could help make her dream come through. In the beginning it was very difficult with two small children. Her ex-husband, the father of her children, presented her with a choice: It was either me or the music. She chose the music ans as a single mother had to take her children to her mother in London. During all these years, 13 in all, she never visited Guinea-Bissau once.
HER FIRST ALBUM
It was Juca Delgado who started her career. This versatile composer, producer, arranger and musician had already collaborated with many renowned artists such as Rui Sangara, Manecas Costa and Bonga. Knowing what goes into producing an album, he was the right person to help Eneida Marta create and release her first album No Storia (2001). The album did well and received rave reviews from the public, media and fellow artists. This led to successful tours in Cape Verde, France, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands and of course Guinea Bissau.
♫ Videoclip : 2001 – Eneida Marta – No Storia 4:42
INVITED BY PUTUMAYO
After the release of her second album Amari (2002), Eneida Marta aroused the interest of “World Music giant” Putumayo records. They invited her to participate in one of their compilations dedicated to the music of the former Portugese colonies in Africa An Afro-Portugese Odyssey (2002). her contribution to the Putumayo compilation was the song Na Bu Mons from her first CD. This participation opened the door for the international recognation of her spectacular voice.
♫ Videoclip : 2002 – Eneida Marta – Amari 4:35
In July 2005, Eneida took first place in the World Music category, in a competition that took place in Portugal, with the song Mindjer Dôlce Mel. This winning song was also included in her third album Lope Kai (2006) and selected for another Putumayo compilation entitled Acoustic Africa (2006). In November2008, the organisation of WOMEX 2008 (World Music Expo), one of the biggest events in the professional World Music market on the planet, selected the artist Eneida Marta for a showcase integrated in its official program. This event brought together about 3.000 delegates, 1.400 companies from more than 90 countries, having integrated more than 50 showcases with more than 400 artists from more than 40 countries that were divided into 5 stages. During the event Eneida interpreted themes from her latest album.
♫ Videoclip : 2006 – Eneida Marta – Mindjer dôce mel 3:42
Her performance at this event led to a large number of bookings for performances at many international world music festivals, including the legendary Africa Festival in Hertme, The Netherlands in 2009.
♫ Live performance : 2009 – Eneida Marta @ Afrikafestival Hertme – “Tambur” 8:36
Despite years of fruitful collaboration with Juca Delgado, after Lope Kai a new phase started in Eneida’s musical career. She had grown up as an artist and wanted to stand on her own two feet. She herself says about this in an interview: “I had the dream of producing my work, I wanted to try some ideas that I solidified throughout over the years. The album Nha Sunhu (2015) is the result of that, that thirst of independence”.(1) The album, recorded between the cities of Bissau, Lisbon and Paris, and received praise from the public and critics.
Accompanied by musicians such as pianist Ernesto Leite (from Portugal), flutist Dramane Dembelé (Burkina Faso), bassist Gogui or gitarist Manecas Costa (both from Guinea Bissau), Eneida Marta sings a work of extraordinary beauty and complexity where also the Netos de Bandim, a traditional percussion group from Guinea Bissau. “I wanted to include the energy and authenticity of African music”, justifies Eneida Marta. The texts result from a selection of works by some of the most outstanding Guinean poets, with the exception of Nha Principe, which Eneida herself wrote. “My music is Guinean”, says Eneida Marta, who also explains how Congo singer Lokua Kanza once said: “I don’t know your country, but I feel I understand you because of your music”.
♫ Videoclip : 2015 – Eneida Marta – Kabalindadi 4:29
♫ Videoclip : 2015 – Eneida Marta – Amor Livre 5:05
Searching for melodies in Guinea’s own identity and crossing the local genre Gumbe with jazz, Eneida Marta built her own sound that has references to classic names of Guinean music such as, among others, José carlos Schwarz, Ernesto Dabo or Zé Manel. “Curiously” says Eneida Marta, “I don’t get much inspiration from women singers. At home I hear men like Marc Anthony, Lokua Kanza, Andrea Bocelli, Zé Manel and Manecas Costa”. Perhaps this explains that the voice that really marks Eneida Marta is her inner voice, the one that makes her sing life, love, in lyrics by poets who, as she explains, “always leave something to decipher”.
After the recording of her previous album, Nha Sunhu, which she entirely herself, Eneida Marta did not want again full involvement from the first to the last chord again. She therefore handed the production of her new album Ibra (2019) over to Athanase Koudou, who has worked with Salif Keita and Richard Bona, among others. This allowed her to fullu focus on the role of interpreter. In an interview she says about this collaboration: “There was a very happy marriage between the singer and the producer. From time to time I gave Athanase a few ideas to get started with. He is a very sensitive person, he seemed te read my mind and responded exactly the way I wanted”. The title of the album Ibra is a tribute to Ibrahim Galissa, Guinean master of Kora, who accompanied Eneida througout her career and unfortunately died recently.
About the album itself she says: “I believe that the big difference between this record and my former albums is the fact that, in this work, there is a mix of traditional acoustic sounds with more electronic sounds, making it a very comprehensice record in terms of artistic approach and sound”.
♫ Videoclip : 2019 – Eneida Marta – Homis Di Gossis 4:10
♫ Live performance : 2019 – Eneida Marta @ B.Leza Clube – Alma Na Fala 5:41
With this album Eneida Marta proves that she has developed into one of the best and most versatile female singers in Africa. Although she speaks only Portugese and Creole, she sings effortlessly in the many languages that Guinea Bissau has, such as Fula, Biafada, Badjara, Manjaco and Mancanha. She also regularly sings in Angolan languages such as Quimbundo. Her repertoire also consists of a mix of styles. In addition to elements of the Gumbe, the urban music style of Guinea Bissau, the influence of Cape Verde and Angolan styles is also recognizable. And that is not all. Eneida is not afraid to sing in (Senegalese) Wolof, or to give songs a Manding coloring through the use of the Kora. And then we are not even talking about the songs with a Caribbean, Latin or Congolese rumba touch.
(1) The quotes are from a 2019 interview by Mariana Madrinha with Eneida Marta.