Cesária Évora with the nickname of the “Barefoot Diva”, for always going on the stage barefoot, to me like many other listeners who do not even understand the lyrics of her song, was a very special singer with an incomparable heavenly voice. She is dearly missed for more than 4 years, dying from respiratory failure on December 17, 2011. Cesaria or the “Queen of Morna” or to me “Miss Perfumado”, for her popular album, was born on 27 August 1941 in Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde and died in the same place at home surrounded by family and friends. She was popular not for a heavenly voice, or being barefoot on the stage, but smoking on the stage during the intermissions, despite the rules of the concert halls and an ambassador of Cape Verde, the rest of Africa and UN World Food Programme. She was smoking to the last moment of her life, surrounded by family and friends at her home in Cape Verde, with always open doors.
It was June 2002, when in Montreal Jazz festival, while in the morning after the first day of arrival, in a coffee shop, I heard her voice and music. I learnt her name for the first time that morning and saw her for the first time in the festival as she happened to be there. One more time, I was privileged to see her performance in Toronto, where she appeared as usual barefoot and smoked during the intermission, applauded by the audience who mostly like me, perhaps did not understand the lyrics of her songs. That , I guess did not matter as we do not understand the song of a canary or cardinal, or an angel if sings for us! Later on, I learnt her songs were about her love for her little country and Africa, that she would be homesick when she was away for short performances. Also wishing rain that was rare for her dry homeland that in a few days will change it to a large beautiful garden. Singing for her mama to hear her, and for Africa, the cradle of the world and the fertile continent, to unite and live in peace not wars, and becoming the “United States of Africa” and realizing their capabilities,…
Cesaria’s father, a part-time musician died, when she was 7 years old, and at the age of 10 she was placed in an orphanage, as her mother could not raise all her six children. At the age of 16, she was persuaded by a friend to sing in a sailors’ tavern. In the 1960s, she started singing on Portuguese cruise ships stopping at Mindelo as well as on the local radio. It was only in 1985 when at the invitation of Cape Verdean singer Bana, she went to perform in Portugal. In Lisbon she was discovered by the producer José da Silva and invited to record in Paris. Évora’s international success came only in 1988 with the release of her first commercial album “La Diva Aux Pieds Nus” (The barefoot diva), recorded in France. Prior to the release of this album, Cesaria recorded her first LP titled “Cesaria” in 1987, that was later released in 1995.
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Respiratory failure: In memory of the late Cesaria Evora, the Barefoot Diva