Cesaria Evora, who started singing as a teenager in bayside bars on the West African island nation of Cape Verde in the 1950s and won a Grammy Award in 2004 after she finally took her music to stages around the world, died Saturday. She was 70.
Evora, known as the "Barefoot Diva" because she always performed without shoes, died at a hospital in Mindelo, on her native island of Sao Vicente in Cape Verde, her label Lusafrica announced on its website. It gave no further details.
She sang traditional music of the Cape Verde archipelago, a former Portuguese colony. She mainly sang in a language known as Crioulo, a Portuguese Creole sprinkled with West African words. Even audiences who couldn't understand the lyrics were moved by her stirring renditions, her unpretentious manner and the music's infectious beat.
"She belongs to the aristocracy of bar singers," French newspaper Le Monde said in 1991, adding that Evora had "a voice to melt the soul."
Evora's international fame came late in life. Her 1988 album "La Diva Aux Pieds Nus" ("Barefoot Diva"), recorded in France where she first found popularity, launched her international career.
Her 1995 album "Cesaria" was released in more than a dozen countries and brought her first Grammy nomination, leading to a major concert tour and album sales in the millions.
She received a Grammy in the World Music category in 2004 for her album "Voz D'Amor."
Evora was the best-known performer of the bittersweet "morna," the national music of Cape Verde. It is a complex, soulful sound, mixing an array of influences arising from the African and seafaring traditions of the 10 volcanic islands.
Evora was born Aug. 27, 1941, on the island of Sao Vicente. Her mother was a cook and her father was a musician who played guitar and violin.
She grew up in Mindelo, a port city on the island where sailors from Africa, America, Asia and Europe mingled in what was a lively cosmopolitan town with a fabled night life. The local musical style borrowed from those cultures, defying attempts to classify it.
"Our music is a lot of things," Evora told the Associated Press in 2000. "Some say it's like the blues, or jazz. Others says it's like Brazilian or African music, but no one really knows."
Evora was 7 years old when her father died, leaving behind seven children. When her mother was unable to make ends meet, Evora was placed in an orphanage at age 10.
At 16, when Evora was doing piecework as a seamstress, a friend persuaded her to sing in one of the many sailors' taverns in her town. She soon was performing all over the islands and became a local star.
After Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal in 1975, the nightclub scene waned. Evora "had three children from three different fathers," she later said, and was struggling to raise a family. One of her children died of a fever.
At 34, Evora quit performing and moved in with her mother.
A decade later, she came out of retirement when a group of Cape Verdean women in Portugal offered to bring her to Lisbon. By the 1990s, Evora was an international star known for never wearing shoes onstage. There was no higher calling to her shoelessness, no showing of solidarity with the hungry and the poor, she had said.
"In Cape Verde, lots of people are like me," she told the Washington Post in 2001. "They just don't like to wear shoes."
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
Damn it would have been nice to see DAngelo he has a unique style, but I will not be in the UK in February. Actually I am ashamed to say this in particular to you ( the last time I admitted this to my friends they almost crucified me ). The last time I went to a concert was to see CL Smooth and Pete Rock ( Gosh I might have even got their names wrong ). I think it was 1994 at Le Palais in Hammersmith.
Not sure if you ever watched a BBC 2 Africa series back in the late 1990s or so. There was a day they had a documentary called "Africa the rock 'n' roll years" showing the political and wars across Africa. That was when I first heard about her and she just grew on me. Strangely enough it was only now she has died I knew she was from Cape Vede I always thought she was Angolan due to her singing when the focus was on Angola in the aforementioned documentary.
Oh.. what a sad news.
May her Soul Rest in Peace.
She was a great torch bearer for African music.
The last gig I went to was Jill Scott last month, I do about 4 or 5 a year lately (used to be prolific).
Le Palais Hammersmith used to be the club Saturday nights in the early 1990s (in 1991 had adult fun with a 9ja girl in one of the phone booths located inside the hall). I used to live around Acton then and had a bad ass Ford Orion (with power steering and well pimped music cassette system to match).
Cearia was the best singer out of Africa in ages. I first became aware of her when she played a song "Natal" on a 2003 putumayo Christmas collection. I checked out who that was and what a revelation. I have became hooked since then.
A couple years ago, I had to cut short a trip and fly back to Chicago, just to see her perform. What a unique performance - No dancing, no shaking, boring to some, she just stood there and belted out some endearing melodious songs. At intervals, and sometimes during songs, she lights up a cigarette and puffs right there on stage, but the audience enjoyed every bit of it.
Some of her songs are in the NVS eclectic collection, of which my favorite is vaquinha mansa
vaquinha mansa -
Given her stroke, she's been been spared of suffering, but the music lives on.
ps - here's the Christmas song that introduced me to her voice
now go and buy her CDs !
Those two samples of her music have brought to the fore, exciting moments of the past. A fragrant cocoon of music that shimmers in the heart of the listener. Her music is a delightful ethereal sensitivity. When she sings, she instantly transports one to the realms of legendary beauty. As the music glides and shimmers in the garden of your heart your whole being responds to the magical call of silver wing. Her music rings with harmony and devotion, her voice sings of unity and longing. It has beauty and calming power.
Stroke is a deadly disease indeed to have snatched this lady away. Hope she joins Miriam Makeba in the great beyond to continue her music.
I did pour a libation with a mini tumbler of wine for her passing.
Here; Sodade is my favourite of all her songs. Although I do like her Angola song very much too.
She brings out through her music a memory of tranquil, peaceful, beautiful and ambiance cultural loving Africa.
RIP Cesaria !
You will live long I love this track in your post above. BC this was the track I was talking about in the bbc documentary.
Thanks for posting those tracks.
You be big boy o..Ford Orion. I followed in the Essex boys trend of ford XR3 and XR3i feeling cool until it got stolen, not sure if you remember the high insurances for those orion, xr3/xr2 etc. Good old days.
May she rest in peace.
RIP Cesaria Evora
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