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Cesaria Evora

   
 

The Barefoot Diva

   

 

  

 

Her voice lilts like an exotic bird's yet is heavy with an underpinning of omnipresent sorrow. Born on the tiny African island of Cabo Verde, a former Portuguese colony, Cesaria Evora soothes the listener's soul like dark coffee and molasses. Each song takes you on a trip to lands unknown, washed by salty waves and laden with sweet exotic fruit.  In her song Petit Pays she evokes the love of her small island and its people.

Petit pays je t'aime beaucoup
Petit petit je l'aime beaucoup

Evora, also known as 'the barefoot diva' for performing without shoes, sings in a tradition called morna (a bluesy variant of the Portuguese fado) accompanied by instruments such as the four-stringed cavaquinho guitar and the accordion.  Like the fado singers of Portugal, Evora's singing is impregnated with saudade, a Portuguese term for melancholic nostalgia.  Thought to have perhaps originated when Portuguese women said goodbye to their men as they left to conquer colonies as far away as India and China, saudade possesses an indefinable quality, perhaps best approximated by the idea of hope that one knows may never be answered.  In his book In Portugal, Aubrey Bell said, "The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness."

The title song Sodade (Creole for saudade) on the wonderful Miss Perfumado perfectly encapsulates both the longing and joy of that word.  Evora's transcendent, plangent voice is the perfect remedy for a New York winter, as one thinks wistfully and indolently of islands in the sun. 

 

Listen: Miss Perfumado

Listen: The Very Best of Cesaria Evora

Tags:  music 

 

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