Cape Verdian Star Cesaria Evora, one of the most famous international world music acts, died today at Baptista de Sousa hospital in Mindelo in the island of Sao Vicente (Cape Verde). She died of high blood pressure complications.
The Cape Verdian government has declared two days of mourning for the death of the international star and flags are flying at half-staff at all official buildings in the archipelago and international delegations abroad.
Nicknamed the ‘barefoot’ diva for her habit of performing without shoes, Cesaria Evora was perhaps the best-known practitioner of morna, songs of sadness, sorrow and yearning.
Cesaria Evora (her friends called her Cize) was born on August 27th, 1941 in Mindelo, Cape Verde. At the age of 16 she started to sing at bars and ships, always standing and wearing down her legs. Mindelo has a large bay and ships arrived frequently bringing all kinds of goods, creating a lively atmosphere.
After Cape Verde gained its independence from Portugal, things didn’t go so well. There were less ships arriving to the ports and the once green archipelago suffered a severe drought that forced many of the island’s inhabitants to emigrate to mainland Africa, Portugal, the United States and France. Cesaria stayed in her hometown until 1985, when Bana, a musician friend, and a Cape Verde women’s association encouraged her to travel to Lisbon (Portugal) to showcase her talent.
In 1988, a Cape Verdian producer living in France, José Da Silva, offered her to travel to Paris to record an album. She was 47 at the time and had nothing to lose, she had never been to Paris before, and so she agreed to go. In Paris, Cesaria’s performances of Cape Verdian styles such as morna and coladeira gained a large following among the immigrant community. After the release of her fourth album, Miss Perfumado, she received great reviews and became popular with French, Belgian and German audiences and later with other international audiences. She recorded in Creole and Spanish. Worldwide tours followed.
Cesaria normally toured with fellow Cape Verdian singer Bau and his band: Jacinto Pereira (cavaquinho), José Paris (bass), Luis Ramos (guitars), Nando Andrade (piano), Totinho (saxophones and percussion), and Bau (guitars, cavaquinho, violin).
In recent times, things improved in Cape Verde. Cesaria returned to the island, bringing with her a blue Ford that she owned in Paris. The lady with the bare feet, as she was also known, had difficulty walking so she used a driver.
Her album Cafe Atlantico sold more than 300.000 copies in France. In 2004, Voz d’Amor won the Grammy for best contemporary world music recording. That same year, Club Sodade: Cesaria Evora came out. It was the first-ever remix collection from the enduring Grammy winning artist.
For her 2009 album, Nha Sentimento, Cesaria and her crew found a collaborator and an admirer in Fathy Salama, a former conductor of the Cairo Orchestra who arranged the three mornas on the album.
Cesaria Evora survived a stroke in April of 2008. In May 2010 she was urgently admitted to a Paris hospital, due to a cardiac problem.
On September 23rd 2011, Cesaria Evora‘s management company and record label Lusafrica announced that the renowned singer from Cape Verde would be retiring.
Her funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, December 20th in the afternoon.
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