A gift from fidjus di Diaspora di "Terra Mai"
(Children of the Diaspora from "Terra Mai")

Claire Andrade-Watkins, PhD
President, SPIA Media Productions, Inc.
Executive Producer/Writer, Serenata de Amor
Associate Professor, Emerson College, Visual and Media Arts
2013 Swearer Center Community Fellow, Brown University

Home is where your heart is, not a specific zip code or a geographical location. Being Cape Verdean is a state of mind. Anywhere there is a port or where sea touches land, there is a Cape Verdean. We are a people of the horizon, and anywhere the sun touches our face is who we are. We are you, you are us, we are local and global citizens.

As a scholar, filmmaker and artist , Serenata de Amor is a perfect “note” to celebrate a ten years journey that began with my first feature documentary, “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?: A Cape Verdean American Story. That documentary, and all of my projects, are based on the vision of SPIA Media Productions, Inc., the company I founded in l998. The mission of SPIA is to create a sustainable record of the Cape Verdean Diaspora, a unique transatlantic history, identity and culture forged between a tiny archipelago and the world during five centuries of colonial rule. "SPIA" means to "see" in the Cape Verdean language, or in this instance, vision. SPIA's vision is to build history one story at a time, in different forms and media that engages and draws from the voices, memories, hopes and dreams of the people and their communities connected by the sea.

The Cape Verde islands are an often overlooked archipelago of ten islands off the coast of west Africa. The small size belies its strategic geopolitical importance as the powerful nexus for the slave trade, whaling, emigration, and where the winds gather that form the hurricanes that sweep across the Atlantic. Symbolically, metaphorically and as a force of nature, Cape Verde has played an integral role in shaping the destiny of the new world. History & Story.

Serenata de Amor is a Cape Verdean love story told in song: it is about love: it is local, it is global, it is universal. It is a convergence of nature and history, and the stories embedded in the collective consciousness and channeled in the music and Crioulo language of Cape Verde. Language and music are windows to the soul, and are the fuel and inspiration for our stories. The notes and lyrics of the mornra encompass the core elements of Cape Verdean identity, memory, culture and traditions. Mornas are about love, but also the loss of love, loved ones and separations. Mornas are how Cape Verdeans celebrate life and also how we grieve.

Its an immigrant story, a story about emigration; it is universal, its about home, and at the same time recognizing that home is a state of mind, not a specific zip code or location. Serenata de Amor is about love: Romeo and Juliet, but with a happy ending. It is a classic and contemporary fairy tale: sweet, beautiful, innocent and forever after.

Serenata de Amor is an homage to those who came before us, and a gift, from us- all generations of the Cape Verdean community who, along with our friends, students, alumni and colleagues at Emerson, came together over the last year to create this work of art. Our dream is that the music soars, forever after, as a sustainable legacy and reminder of those values and traditions that have sustained this remarkable community of the Diaspora for centuries.


Benny Sato Ambush
Distinguished Producing Director-in-Residence, Performing Arts Emerson College
Writer, Serenata de Amor


Reflections of a Newbie Film Director on Serenata de Amor

I’m pretty confident as a theatrical stage director having been trained and well practiced in it professionally for nearly four decades. I confess that my heart raced with both trepidation and intrigue when Claire Andrade-Watkins asked me to direct what became Serenata de Amor. It was called Morna then - early April 2012. Claire and I go waaaay back with a unique personal history. I have huge respect for her and her life’s work, so that was a major pull to say yes. And the subject matter was appealing - the Cape Verdean community. I have some personal history there too. But to direct a film? What the hell do I know about film? I’m a theatre guy. I said yes. CRAP! I’m in over my head. I’ll drown. HELP!!!

I had lots of help. LOTS! The more I got involved, the better I felt, the more excited I got. A new challenge. A chance to learn new skills. Meeting new people who are AWESOMELY skilled, talented and BEATIFUL. Let’s do this. Wheeee!

Claire and Nerissa Williams, the Line Produer/UPM, reassured me at every juncture of my wobbly steps and surrounded me with people who knew what the hell they were doing. Really incredible expertise everywhere. And so many of them. From all over the world. The world! A truly global interdisciplinary creative project intersecting right here in the Sound Stage of Emerson College’s Paramount Center, my back yard.

The story evolved, clarified, deepened over time with contribution from several sources, including me. What a gift to be able to help shape a story. With the help of project teammates, I did a kind of crash course in filmmaking, camera shots, film lighting, editing, etc. Mind blowing technologies new to me. It was on the job training with patient, understanding helping hands and safety nets all around me. Hallelujah, and thank you!

The story! Love: Hope For, Unrequited, Forbidden, Lost and Triumphantly Attained. Everyone can relate to this. It’s everyone’s story, everyone’s journey. But to tell it in and through the culture and music of the unique historic Brava Cape Verde Island? This is juicy beyond description. The “morna” is the deep song of the soul swimming in the vast, endless ocean of love’s agonies and ecstasies. The musicians, singers and historians of the New England Cape Verde community who sang, played, acted, advised and supported this music/film short that defies easy description are a community to which I am blessed to have been introduced. I am in love with them all. They are beautiful, sensual, soulful, fun, deep with bottomless mystery and treasure - like still water. Their stories are gold mines. Their food is off the chain. And their grog? Well, um, ‘nuff said there.

To the best of my ability, I wanted to capture not just the sound and look of this community, but what it feels like to be them, what it feels like when love has you in her embrace. What the eyes tell you which transcends words, hence the extreme close up on the eyes of several characters. How memory stays with you. When love hopes, it is a delicate feathered thing. When love is disappointed, it is an indelible anguishing inner pain. When love is fulfilled, it is a high of ecstatic climax. All faces and phases of love have a sound, a color, a tone, a vibration, a need to express. The mornas of the Cape Verde people have it in their musical tradition. It is captivating, it is universal, it is world class.

I am grateful for having had this experience. I hope the large and talented creative team who worked on Serenata de Amor - on camera and behind the scenes - succeeded in capturing the spirit and soul of a beautiful people who have great riches to share with the world.


Gardenia Benros/writer & lead female vocal (Laura)

Born in the city of Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde Islands, Gardenia’s source of inspiration for singing “morna” was inherited from her maternal grandmother, Carmen Fermino Pinto, a native of Vila de Nova Sintra, island of Brava, an actress/singer. She was a close friend of the composer Eugenio Tavares. She sang many of his compositions taught by him personally. The tradition was passed on to Maria Filomena St. Aubyn Pinto, known as Meek, who became Gardenia’s mother. Gardenia continued the traditional style of “morna” singing. She began her career in her teens while residing in Rhode Island, USA, as the singer of a local Cape Verdean band called “Tropical Power”. The mixture of personal and musical influences from her childhood in Lisbon, adolescence in Providence and Boston, shaped her artistry and beliefs. Gardenia became the first Cape Verdean singer to be signed to a major record label (PolyGram). She is the first Cape Verdean woman with a Music degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She has lived on three continents, speaks five languages. Her cultural treasure is Capeverdean, European and American.

Benvindo Cruz lead male vocal (Djedge)

Benvindo one of six children, was born November 14, 1971 to Amalia Oliveira Benros and Silvester Reis Cruz, in Vila de Ribeira Brava on the island of Sao Nicolau, in the Republic of Cape Verde islands, a tiny archipelago of ten islands located off the coast of west Africa.

His father was a very well know musician in the barlavento, or windward islands, of Sao Nicolau, Sao Vicente and Sal, and he often played with other acclaimed Cape Verdean musicians including Bau, Voginha, Tazinho, Antero Simas, Maninho Almeida.

Music was the language spoken in his home, and the sweet sounds of his father’s guitar linger and resonate in my memory. His father always said that his closest friend was his guitar, and you could hear that affection in his music.

I grew up with this music, and the seed was planted in me. I write about love: both the desire for love, and love lost. I write about what I see and feel around me.. The songs live in me, and the feelings are part of my soul.

The Miranda Family(Violin and acoustic guitars)

Napolean Miranda (Pedru) John Miranda (Djon) Emmanuel Miranda (Vava)

John Miranda and his brothers carry on the tradition of their father, ”Josezinho”, the violinist from Brava, who was a well known musician of the “morna”, playing the music of great Cape Verdean songwriters such as Eugenio Tavares, and others.

Josezinho was a great teacher of the violin, and also master of the guitar amongst other instruments. He was often accompanied by other well-known musicians such as: Nho Aires “blind” Donori, Ti Be and Clarimundo. Many a night Josezinho would be awakened in the middle of the night by a friend, knocking at his door, asking him to accompany them on a serenade.

John Miranda left Cape Verde at age fourteen, as a stowaway on a boat to Dakar-Senegal, which turned into life as a mariner traveling the world. His visit to his dying father in the United States in l980 changed his life. His father left him an inheritance and mission: to refurbish his old violin, and play it to please his people, as he had done throughout his life. John had not touched the violin for decades, but the memories of his early days in Brava, and his first violin with two strings came back.

John, his brothers, and their children, are dedicated to continuing the legacy of “Josezinho”, as well as the traditions of Cape Verdean music, and the “morna.”

Craig Ernest Sharpe Andrade Jr., “Craigie”(child musician)

Craigie started playing music on pots and pans at nine months old. He became interested in the violin at the age of two, which is also when he started traveling with the Miranda band, and pretending to play the violin. He began taking music lessons at three years old, and is also interested in other instruments including guitar, drums, and saxophone.

Today Cragie plays the keyboard and is currently taking lessons at Central Music School in Brockton. He often talks about his aspirations to have his own music room with all of his favorite instruments and eventually turn the basement into a studio.

Domenick deAndrade(child musician)

Domenick was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. He is eleven years old and attends South Middle School In Brockton. He has one older Brother CJ, who is 20. His family has been involved with music for many years. Domenick was nine years old when he first showed interest in the guitar, so his parents enrolled him in the Central Music School in Brockton. After only a few weeks of lessons Domenick was able to play the “Sodade” the morna made famous by Cesaria Evora. The next month he opened a show for Cape Verdean performer Juta Barros at the Strand Theater in Boston. He has been performing and practicing music ever since. When he gets older he wants to be like the Guitarist Slash.

Jose Luis Spencer Santos (Manel)

Born on the island of Sao Vicente in Cape Verde, Spencer grew up on the island of Sal. Music has been a strong cultural tradition in his family on the father's side, and he started learning music at home at six years old, following the footsteps of his grandfather, father and uncles.

With over thirty years of experience Spencer is well known as a musician and a dynamic cultural event producers in the American- Cape Verdean community. His unique arpeggio style as a guitar player, makes him one of the most sought musicians of traditional and contemporary Cape Verdean music. Spencer is also a song writer, composer and singer with a solid career with a various Cape Verdean bands. He has also supported other Cape Verdean singers as a studio recordings producer, and in a several musical events in Cape Verde, Portugal, France, Spain, Angola and USA. As a composer and songwriter Spencer has been, a member of the Paris based SACEM (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique) since l999.

Spencer also has a distinguished career as a journalist and has experience with various media corporations such as RTC (Cape Verdean National Public Radio & Television), RFI (Radio France Internationale), RDP (Portuguese National Public Radio), CVOL (Cape Verde Online) and Nos Jornal.

A message from Anna Rene Joia Barros,(Vovo di Laura)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who came from Brava, Cape Verde Islands, named Anna Rene Joia. All Cape Verdeans have a wish to come to America. Anna’s wish was to become a writer. But instead, she met a young lieutenant named John J. Barros. They got married and went away together to spend 29 years in the military. I am Anna. I have seen and traveled the world during all those years, and I have enjoyed it-and I thank God. He has blessed us with four good sons, ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. After we retired from the military, we came right back to New Bedford, because New Bedford is a mother to me. She embraced me when I came from Cape Verde, like a mother holding her newborn, and I have been here since 1974. And now, I have written 4 books: A Sack Full of Blessings; The Forbidden Fruit; I Wonder If There Is Snow In Heaven; and Little Annie and Her Polka-Dotted Goat. All my books are based on true stories.

I taught myself how to read and write English. I have never attended school in America. I only completed the first grade in Cape Verde. So, to the young people of today, I would like to say: go to school, for education is priceless. It is a beacon that always directs your life. If I can do all that I have done with just a first grade education, imagine what you can do with a high school diploma and a college degree. Join the military. My husband and three of my sons are military veterans. It is a good life, and can help you all throughout your life. If you need help writing books, I would be glad to assist. Remember, God, Hope, & Faith will take you a long, long way in life. Anna Rene Joia Barros.

Armando Madeira (Totoi)

Born on the island of Brava, Cape Verde and one of fourteen children Armando remembers living in Brava as child and all of the festivities surrounding New Years, Reis, Sao Joao, Carnival, and Kulinha. He recalls that music was always involved in these events: violins, guitars, the cavaquinho viola, etc. And cites this for being the reason the people of Brava are so passionate about music. Madeira migrated to the United States in 1971.

In 1976 Armando attended Weymouth Vocation Technical High School where he studied Construction Technology and graduated in 1979 with high honors. He went on to work for a Cape Verdean construction company (John B. Cruz). He later created his own successful construction company.

Armando has remained active in the Cape Verdean community currently working on an interim board as Vice president (NACVO) organizing to create a foundation that will umbrella all Cape Verdean organizations in the United States.

As Manager of John Miranda’s band, Armando manages lots of musical events through which his passion for music is constant. He and his wife recently celebrated their 31st anniversary and Armando is also a proud father of six beautiful girls and one granddaughter.

Diane Lynn Madeira (Vovo di Laura as young girl)

Diane Lynn Madiera is the daughter of Armando Madeira who was of Cape Verdean descent, and Christina Madeira of Italian descent . Growing up, Diane was always been surrounded by musical instruments as her father Armando was always playing guitars, pianos, and singing. Armando and the family would get together on a Sunday and just sing along to a song that he was playing on the guitar or piano. From the age four until age eleven she was enrolled at Sinclair Dance Studio where she took lessons in ballet, tap, and jazz. She also started taking private flute lessons at age eight. She continues to make music a major role in her life.

Isadore Ramos PhD(Mochino)

Dr. Ramos, after thirty-five years, retired from the East Providence School Department as Assistant Superintendent. His involvement in the community created a desire to become involved in politics.

Dr. Ramos was born and raised in East Providence, RI as one of six children. His parents previously emigrated from the island of Brava, Cape Verde. Dr. Ramos was the first person of color to be elected to the East Providence school committee. After serving two years on the committee he decided to run for City Council. Dr. Ramos was the first person of color to serve on the council. After serving the city on the council, Dr. Ramos became the first Cape Verdean Mayor in the United States.

His younger brother Tony Ramos is a painter, video artist and cultural advocate living in the south of France who travels back and forth to New England. Tony is a founding member of the EAI (Electronic Arts Intermix) in New York City, and his video art is in prestigious collections at MoMA and the Getty. Tony assisted the Serenata project in shooting pick-up interviews used to help in the translation of the Crioulo dialogue in the movie.

Antonio M. Leite (Aguinelo)

Antonio Leite was born in Praia, Sao Tiago, Cape Verde, where I lived until I was 5. Afterwards, moved with family to Lisbon, Portugal and eventually established permanent residence here in Boston, where I got a bachelor’s degree in Economics at BU. Currently, he is attending UMASS Boston to become a mathematics teacher.