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Cesaria Evora

Cesaria Evora

Cesaria Evora
@ the Barbican & Southbank Centre's / Royal Festival Hall
4 May 2010 - 17 November 2007

Click an image to enlarge.

Cesária Evora has died on December 2011at the age of 70 after months of poor health. Evora suffered a stroke in 2008 and a heart attack in 2010. She announced her retirement in September 2011 after suffering another stroke.

Evora spoke of her sadness at having to retire, saying: “I have no strength, no energy. I want you to say to my fans: forgive me, but now I need to rest. I infinitely regret having to stop because of illness, I would have wanted to give more pleasure to those who have followed me for so long.”

Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves paid tribute to her “invaluable contribution to the greatness of our nation and our pride.”

Evora is survived by her children, Eduardo and Fernanda, and two grandchildren.


Evora was born on the 27th August 1941 in Mindelo. As a little girl, When she was still a young girl, she went to stay with her grandmother and was educated by nuns, an experience that taught her to despise all moral strictures. Evora often sang a wide range of songs and gave Sunday performances from the bandstand on the main square, accompanied by her brother Lela on saxophone. As a teenager, she made her debut at the Gremio. Evora’s life was closely linked to the Lombo district, once occupied by the Portuguese expeditionary force. There, she learnt about life and singing with the composer Gregorio Gonçalvez, a charismatic man who adored street theatre. At the age of twenty, Evora was invited to sing for the Congelo (a fishing company created with local and Portuguese capital) and was thrilled to join the notables at their private function. Her pay consisted of dinner.

Evora’s reputation spread to the neighbouring islands. Mindelo was packed with bars and Evora made the Café Royal her headquarters. There, between two SG Portuguese cigarettes, she sang Mornas for aid workers, lawyers, traders, adventurers, chicken merchants and Portuguese civil servants. In the 60s, João Mimoz, a retail businessman who had a little tape machine, recorded two of her songs and sent the tape to Portugal to be made into a single. The following year, Frank Cavaquim decided to produce another record but they were both complete failures.

In 1975, Cape Verde discovered the repercussions of Independence and Evora stopped performing in public, sinking into a prolonged bout of depression made worse by excessive drinking. This silence lasted about ten years. They say that she wandered naked and wild through the streets of Mindelo in the grip of a “feitiço” (an evil spell). Cape Verdean musicians despised her because of her extremely low social standing, but her luck was to change. At the start of the 80s, the PAIGC created a women’s organisation, the OMCV. In its ranks were many Marxist militants, including Isaura, a pharmacist and old friend of Evora’s who helped set up a show in tribute to the singer in 1985. The aim was to restore the fortunes of a woman who many claimed was the “Voice of Cape Verde”, but for Evora, the experience was a humiliation that brought
her virtually nothing. So Isaura secured her a place with a delegation of Cape Verdean female singers leaving for Lisbon to make an album that would remain obscure.

In 1987, the great singer Bana invited her and other Cape Verdean artists to join him for
a series of concerts in the USA with audiences drawn from the Cape Verdean community of New Jersey. The tour had its high and low points (Evora and Bana did not always get on). However, back in Lisbon, she agreed to appear for a while in a restaurant owned by Bana as a way of paying for her return ticket. While she was singing in the restaurant, she met José da Silva who was to become her mentor and official producer. It was the end of 1987 and José fell in love with Evora’s magnificent voice, inviting her to come and make a record in Paris. She was now 47 with nothing to lose and, never having been to Paris, she agreed. The trip was arranged for the following year. In the French capital, José hired some of the best-known Cape Verdean musicians to record the album “La diva aux pieds nus” (The barefoot diva): Luis Morais, Paulino Vieira, Manu Lima and others. To celebrate the release of the record, a concert was held at the New Morning club on the 1st October 1988. The theatre was only half full, but one song “Bia Lulucha”, a zouk-flavoured coladera - met with limited success in the Cape Verdean community. José was determined. He knew that the singer was talented and decided to record a second album in 1990. “Distino di Belita”, included acoustic mornas and electric coladeras. At the time, Avora was again hopping from bar to bar, making a little money here and there. Being responsible for her two children and her mother whose sight was failing, she had to earn a living. The little family lived in a dilapidated house in Mindelo at 7; rue William Du Bois near the harbour. François Post, then press attaché for the Mélodie record company (which helped bring Evora international fame), remembers the smell of stagnant water, the dim light from one bare bulb hanging in each room, the tanks of rainwater and a little black cat, “but she was incredibly kind, she had a heart of gold.”

The “Distino di Belita” album was not a commercial success, but it caught the ear of a few professionals, such as Christian Mousset, director of Angoulême’s Festival Musiques Métisses. François Post persuaded José to make a purely acoustic album and Evora returned to France at the end of May 1991 to record it. She appeared in Angoulême on the 2 June and at the Paris New Morning on the 7th. While the two concerts were not yet sell-outs, they were reported in the specialised press (with a first article in the Libération newspaper). October saw the release of her “Mar Azul” album, which was immediately play-listed on the FIP and France Inter radio stations. A new concert was planned for the 14 December at the New Morning. The audience in the packed house - mainly European now - gave her an ovation.

After “Mar Azul”, media excitement grew. Feeling confident, José da Silva decided to begin production of a more ambitious album, “Miss Perfumado”, released in 1992. With more than 300,000 copies sold to date in France, many see it as Evora’a masterpiece and it was nominated for the Grammy Awards after its American release in 1999. The album was produced by José da Silva and Paulino Vieira, the creative pianist who initially accompanied the singer. It includes some of the finest songs in her repertoire.

The press enthused over her unique voice, even comparing her to Billie Holliday. All the stories that would contribute to “the legend of Evora” filled entire columns: her unstinting love of cognac and tobacco, her hard life in a forgotten archipelago, the warm nights of Mindelo… In June 1993, Avora packed theOlympia (two sell-out concerts in June) and began her first major international tour. Evora explains:

“So I began singing again for good… I don't believe in dreams or fate. What delights me today is the happiness of having got through all the years of suffering to better enjoy the life I live now. At home, we say it's better to drink the venom first and the honey later. Now, I'm drinking the honey.”

Cesaria Evora

Cesaria Evora



A L'Olympia Cabo Verde Cafe Atlantico Cesaria
Distino Di Belita Mar Azul Perfumado Rogamar
Sao Vicente "Sodade" Spirit of Africa Voz D'Amor

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