The Queen of Morna
Cesária Évora, also known as Cize among her friends, was born in 1941 in Mindelo. This capital of the island of São Vicente has always been, and still is, the cultural heart of the Republic of Cabo Verde. Cize is the most famous performer of "morna", the national music of the Cape Verde islands. This is why she is also known as the "Queen of morna". Cesária Évora started singing as a teenager in Mindelo's taverns and when her popularity grew, she also sang on boats docked in the port. Instead of being payed for her singing, she received free drinks and became a famed cognac drinker.
Not easily classified
The music of morna is a mixture of music from the African mainland and other influences. It is not easily classified as it is a soulful musical style, but also regarded as bluesy and jazzy. Cesária Évora mostly sang in local Cape Verdean Creole, but also in Portuguese and French. Her songs are about romantic disappointments and the remote location of the Cabo Verde archipelago. She also sang "coladeras", lighter and more catchy songs that were meant for the dance floor. Despite her great voice and impressive looks, her career as a professional singer would not bloom until she was 47 years old.
The rise of the Barefoot Diva
In 1988 a young Frenchman invited her to record an album in Paris. This album was called “La Diva Aux Pieds Nus”, or “The Barefoot Diva”, a reference to her habit to perform barefooted. This album resulted in her international breakthrough, and launched her professional career. The 1995 album "Cesaria" sold millions and resulted in her first Grammy award nomination. After releasing this album, Cesária toured around the world. In 2003 she released her album “Voz D’Amor” (Voice of Love), which won the 2003 Grammy Award for best World Music album. It sold over 400,000 copies worldwide.
Death and legacy
From 1987 until 2010 Cesária recorded thirteen albums. On 10 May 2010, she had a heart attack, and was operated in a Parisian hospital in 2010. In September 2011 it was announced that Cesária Évora's career had ended as a result of poor health. Although she had quit drinking in 1995, she still smoked heavily. On 17 December 2011, she passed away in her home in Mindelo, 70 years old. Besides her obvious influence on Cape Verdean pride and awareness, her legacy can still be found on the 2,000 Escudos banknotes of Cabo Verde, and in the name of the international airport on São Vicente. On his 2013 album "Racine Carrée", the popular Belgium artist Stromae honoured the Barefoot Diva with the song "Ave Cesaria".