World music lovers
have many reasons to celebrate these days. It seems the globe has suddenly awoken
to the sounds of Buena Vista Social Club, Paolo Conte, Luis Ferrer, Youssou
N'Dour, Ali Farka Toure and the like, but one singer from the Cape Verde Islands
off the coast of West Africa holds a special place in many hearts. Sometimes
called "The Barefoot Diva," Cesaria Evora sings with a gentle spirit
and billowing inner rhythm that is a balm to world weary ears.
latest album, Voz D'Amor (Bluebird), is the latest in a career that
has spanned 40 years and made her an international star. But she
is especially close to the fans in her Cape Verde homeland. "People
always call me an ambassador," she said by way of an interpreter
to the Richmond Times Dispatch. "I do not know if that is true.
I certainly feel very close to Cape Verdeans I meet in other countries,
because they are my people. They may have moved away, but they are
still Cape Verdeans, and they look at me as a sign from home. I
am a comfort." Evora is not only a comfort to Cape Verdeans.
The New York Times described her thusly: "Evora walks onstage
barefoot, usually holding a cigarette, to sing about heartache and
bittersweet memories. Her music is morna, tavern songs from Cape
Verde, with melodies as graceful and knowing as the Mona Lisa's
smile." Evora's fame has helped expose the miserable living
conditions of the Cape Verde Islands. In the 60's Evora was the
most popular night club singer in the islands, but night club singer
in the islands, but there was so little profit in her work that
by the mid 1970s she stopped singing. But now she is beloved the
world over, and many have taken notice of her nation's poverty and
blight. An ambassador of goodwill, perhaps, and an artist bringing
light to darkness is certainly her mantle. "People have told
me that they when I am not there foreign people go to my home,"
she says. "They go there because of my music. They want to
see where I live. For someone to go my house and tell me they have
discovered my homeland because of my music, that is a high compliment."
Voz D'Amor has the ability to transport. Songs like the lilting
"Pomba," the evocative "Jardim Prometido" and
the romping rhythms of "Saia Travada" make every day a
summer siesta, and can change gray skies to deepest blue. In a world
pounded by machine beats and computer arrangements, Evora's acoustic
reveries are a timeless and universal life-affirming message of
grace."The music is not about me," she explains. "It's
not speaking about me but about Cape Verdeans and life there. Maybe
some things I sing about happened to me at a time in my life. But
it is more my culture I am relating the song to, not me." Cesaria
Evora may brush off attention on her skills, but this woman could
sing the phonebook and make it a personal tale of tragedy and triumph.
Her talent is vast, her heart is large, and her fame deserved.
Voz D' Amor