Back in September, we featured Cesária Évora and her terrific song “Angola.” At that time she announced she was retiring. Unfortunately, Cesária passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 70. Known as the “Barefoot Diva” for going barefoot on stage, Cesária is legendary for popularizing the morna style of music. Carrying a sultry voice that often drew comparisons to Billie Holiday, Cesária had a tough upbringing. When she was seven years old her father died, and at age ten she was placed in an orphanage, as her mother could not raise all six children. A friend convinced her to sing at a sailor’s tavern when she was sixteen and she kept at it. She continued singing on cruise ships during 60’s and 70’s, but it wasn’t until 1985 when she performed in Lisbon that she was noticed by a musician named José da Silva.
José got her into the studio and success soon followed. Her first album, La Diva Aux Pieds Nus, was recorded in France in 1988 and got her a lot of attention. Her 1992 album Miss Perfumado sold over 300,000 copies worldwide. She finally won a grammy award for Voz d’Amor in 2004. Always approachable, Cesária was still receiving people in her home in Mindelo 48 hours before her death. Two days of national mourning have been declared in the small island nation, with President Jorge Carlos Fonseca calling her “one of the major cultural references of Cape Verde.” Known for singing songs of longing with her rich contralto vocals, Cesária will be sorely missed.
Here is another fine performance by Cesária and her group playing “Lua Nha Testemunha.” Enjoy.