Cesária was born in Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde on the 27th of August 1941. Her father died when she was seven and after the age of ten, she was raised in orphanage. She started singing in a sailors’ tavern at the age of sixteen and became something of local hit in her twenties and thirties, but at one point had to give up music because she could not make a living at it. Then, in 1988, a French producer “discovered” her and released her first album in France, which began an international career that eventually led to many awards, including a Grammy for best contemporary world music album. Once she hit the world music scene, her concert tours sold out.
Her music was in the Cape Verdean style called morna, her singing suffused with sodade—a Cape Verde creole word that means nostalgic longing. If the deep, beautiful waters around her native island had a voice of their own, it would have been Cesária’s. Listen to her song called “Sodade”:
She performed barefoot to show her solidarity with poor women. Her first studio album was called “La Diva aux Pieds Nus” (The Barefoot Diva). It was not until 1995, that her international career took off and her repertory took on new sounds and combinations of styles from Cuba, Brazil, and Egypt. Here’s a song from my favorite of her albums, Cabo Verde:
And before we leave her, if I were in the Big Boss of that heavenly choir, here is the number I would request for the finale of her first concert in the great beyond.
Cesária Évora is gone. But her music is immortal.