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Cesaria Evora

Cesaria Evora, popularly known as Cize, was born in 1941 in the port town of Mindelo on the Cape Verde island of Sao Vicente - one of her albums is called Sao Vicente. She became internationally famous when she was in her late 40s and has recorded around 15 albums. To understand the style of her music one should read about the history of the islands:
The Portuguese arrived on these 10 uninhabited islands in 1460, populated them with Africans and Europeans, and governed harshly. The islands are in the Atlantic Ocean, 350 miles off the coast of Senegal (it takes 2 hours to go by air), were one of Africa’s first slave ports, and became one of its last nations to achieve independence in 1975. All this explains why the melancholy morna, sung in Creole-Potuguese about love, loss and sadness, is very much part of the Cape Verdean national identity and Cesaria is a true ambassadress.
Cesaria’s father was a violinist and though she does not remember him because he died when she was 7, her grandmother says that Cesaria used to sit on his lap while he played. Surrounded by music, she grew up singing with her friends in the suburbs of Mindelo. When she was 16, a boyfriend who played guitar convinced her that she had an exceptional voice and encouraged her to pursue music as a profession. After that Cesaria recorded some songs for the national radio station, and began to build a reputation. She idolized Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holliday and fado singer Amalia Rodriguez.
In the colonial times Cesaria developed a modest career performing in bars and restaurants, and sometimes in the homes of wealthy Portuguese colonialists. After Cape Verde achieved independence in 1975, many of the Portuguese aristocracy fled the new socialist government so Cesaria had very few occasions to perform.
Then in 1985, a Cape Verdean women's organization asked her to record 2 songs for a compilation CD. She went to Paris to record, and while there played some concerts. Her success in Europe was absolutely phenomenal.
Cesaria performs with closed eyes and bare feet, which she calls part of the 'national costume' of Cape Verde. She says that when she sings, memories
play in her head transporting her to other times and places.
Evora has a certain fondness for cigarettes and whiskey, paying no

attention to any claim that these might harm her voice. "I've had plenty of time to ruin my voice," she says. "And since it's not ruined yet, I'm going to continue." Her songs are filled with longing and sadness with the acoustic sounds of guitar, cavaquinho, violin, accordian, and clarinet.
"Morna is like the blues because it is a way to express life's suffering in music." Cesaria is known as the barefoot diva because she appears on stage in her bare feet in support of the disadvantaged women and children of Cape Verde. Another of her albums is La Diva aux Pieds Nus, made when she was 47. Understanding her lyrics is not necessary because one can sense the emotions in her performances. Now a grandmother, Cesaria
continues to record and tour and is happy about her worldwide popularity,
"... in all those years when I sang in bars and in front of strangers I sometimes had an idea I might someday be successful outside my country. The thought never stayed with me for very long, but here I am."
Her songs appear on numerous album compilations including 'Quem pode' with Teofilo Chantre (her guitarist) on Drop the Debt.
There seems to be a strong link with Angola, perhaps because of Portuguese, for example Bonga sings one of Cesaria’s well-known songs, 'Sodade' (meaning Nostalgia). Cesaria has dueted with many artists: Salif Keita for the song 'Yamore' on the album Moffou and on her album Rogamar (2006) Ismael Lo joins her for 'Africa Nossa'. Both these and a host of others (a total of 19) make up the compilation Cesaria Evora & ... (2010).
After suffering ill health in 2010, in September 2011 Cesaria had to retire due to poor health. Tnen on 17th December 2011, aged 70, she died. Two days of national mourning were held in honour of the queen of Morna.