If Cape Verde has a city that never sleeps, it must be Mindelo. Mindelo, located on the island of São Vicente, is the second biggest city of the Cape Verde islands. It is known as the cultural capital of the country, because of its many (music) festivals and exiting nightlife. Mindelo's nightlife goes beyond people looking for a party. It is all part of Cape Verdean culture, where music and dance are about expression, heritage and an extremely talented people.
Baía das Gatas
The village of Baia das Gatas is a small fisherman village in the northeastern part of the island of São Vicente. Although the village has grown significantly in the last couple of years it remains a calm and authentic village where the population mainly lives of the fishing industry. The drive from the city of Mindelo takes about 20 minutes.
Baia das Gatas beach is a popular escape for the 'Mindelense', the residents of Mindelo. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the island of São Vicente, and many families head out to Baia das Gatas where there kids can play safely in the water because of the calm bay.
Baia das Gatas festival is one of the biggest and oldest festivals of the country. Its first edition was on the 18th and 19th of August back in 1984 (!). One of the headliners for this very first edition was the one and only Cesaria Evora. The festival was organized by a group of musicians from Mindelo, who wanted to do something for the population of the island and bring together musicians from different islands and country's.
"The first edition of the festival felt like a new era of freedom. It was only a few years after the country gained independence, so times were not easy. Musicians did not feel that they had the liberty to express themselves. Because of this many musicians stopped making music and the people lost interest. When we first organized the Baia das Gatas festival is was like a new beginning, we really needed a festival that had no ties with religion or politics." (Vlú, one of the members of the organization back in 1984)
Today Baia das Gatas festival is a big international event. Tourists and Cape Verdeans living abroad plan their holidays around the dates of the festival. It is, together with carnival, a spectacle that the people from Mindelo look forward to months in advance. In the last couple of years the festival has had international headliners like Nelson Freitas, C4 Pedro, Morgan Heritage and Gentleman. The 33rd edition, which will be on the 11th, 12th and 13th of August 2017, is expected to draw thousands of people to the beach of Baia das Gatas.
The festival is free to visit, which contributes to the fact that thousands chose to spend their entire weekend camping in Baía. Although the city hall of Mindelo works on public transportation by getting Hiace drivers from Santo Antão to work during the festival, be prepared that you might have to wait a little before finding an empty seat.
Taxis normally are available during the festival, but might be charging more than the usual price of CVE 1.000 (€ 10). Also, in both cases you will need to walk a good distance to get to the actual festival. Getting there early is advised, although each year many artists start performing later than programmed.
Update 2019 edition: The 34th edition of the Baía das Gatas Festival will be held on the 9th, 10th and 11th of August 2019. As soon the São Vicente Camara Municipal publicly shares names of the confirmed headliners for 2019, we will updates this post with that information.
The list of headliners for the 2019 edition of Baía das Gatas festival:
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3 reasons why Baia das Gatas festival is a must
Be a part of history
The edition of 2018 will be the 34th (!) in the history of the festival. Back in 1984, when the first edition was organized by a group of musicians from the island of São Vicente, times where not easy.
After the independence of 1975, politicians tried to control musicians and most events that were organized became very political. When the first Baía das Gatas festival was organized it was the first cultural festival of its kind, and not a political (or religious) one. It became a symbol of freedom and unity.
It’s completely free
One of the best things of the festival is that it’s free for everyone. While 3 day tickets could easily be sold for prices of up to CVE 10.000 (€ 100), as is happening with different festivals in Cape Verde, Baía das Gatas can be enjoyed by everyone.
Many people camp out at Baía for the entire weekend, but you can easily choose to go back and forth to Mindelo. Public transportation is partially provided by Hiace drivers coming from Santo Antão for the festival. Food and drinks can be bought at the many stalls on or close to the beach.
With thousands of people heading out to Baía from Mindelo, it might take a while to find a Hiacewith available seats. Taxis also drive to and from the festival constantly, but are not as cheap.
Baía das Gatas is known for the incredible line-up it’s able to produce every year. The artists performing at the festival are the best artists of Cape Verde. Artists such as Nelson Freitas, Djodje, Elida Almeida and Lura all have been on stage in recent years.
Each year the festival invites a few fantastic international act to perform as well. The 2017 edition saw C4 Pedro as one of the headliners, while the legendary reggae band Morgan Herritage gave an unforgettable show in 2015. Headliners for the 2018 are Claudia Leite (Brasil) and UB40 (UK).