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A Final Communiqué, Tough and Tender

Cesaria Evora: her striking intuition for interpretation put Cape Verde and morna, its characteristic musical form, melodic and mournful, on the global map
Cesaria Evora: her striking intuition for interpretation put Cape Verde and morna, its characteristic musical form, melodic and mournful, on the global map

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MÃE CARINHOSA

Cesaria Evora

Lusafrica

 

Cesaria Evora’s velvet-and-grit voice flowed from her humble beginnings and from her striking intuition for interpretation. Evora put Cape Verde and its native music, the bluesy and bittersweet morna, on the global map. When she passed late in 2011, the world lost one of its most distinctive artists.

From her career as a bar singer in the Cape Verdean city of Mindelo to her triumph on Europe’s foremost stages, Evora kept her trademark style. Engaging but never pandering, she managed to woo the world, often performing with no shoes to earn the name “the barefoot diva.” Over the course of eleven studio albums, Evora and her close collaborators—including producer and longtime champion Jose da Silva—cut several songs that worked on their own but didn’t quite fit a particular album concept. Now these gorgeous, characteristically subdued yet passionate tracks are finally seeing the light on the collection titled Mãe Carinhosa (Mother Affection).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR7HKOP55AQ

Cesaria Evora, ‘Petit Pays,’ live on The Jools Holland Show (1996)

With exquisite instrumentation behind her, Evora’s voice sounds as fresh and melancholy, as sweet and heartfelt, as ever. With songs by Evora’s favorite songwriters and with cameo appearances by musicians such as Manu Dibango (who plays marimba on “Esperança”), Mãe Carinhosa draws on Evora’s love for mornas (the lush “Dor di Sodade”) and rollicking coladeras (“Tchon da Franca”), for wry lyrics (the almost goofy but instructive culinary mix up in “Cmê Catchôrr”) and deep emotion (the touching “Mãe Carinhosa“).

No one would have guessed, had they walked in a bar in Mindelo and looked at Evora, what surprising stardom lay in store for the singer. No one, except Jose da Silva, a producer with roots in Cape Verde. Upon encountering the singer crooning in a joint for a few bills from the folks who came through port, he encouraged her to record an album. She did, reluctantly at first due to her family obligations. Then she cut another, and another. A few years later, after she and da Silva found the perfect sound to buoy her distinctive voice, she was selling out major venues and winning major music awards. (Evora has both a Grammy and a Legion de Honneur to her credit.)

Cesaria Evora, ‘Rotcha ‘Scribida,’ live at Le Bataclan in Paris (1995)

Cesaria Evora, ‘Partida’

When not touring intensively, she was recording, more than she could possibly fit on an album. Hence the surplus of quality performances  left in the can following her death in late 2011. Reluctant t to release a posthumous album, da Silva changed his mind in the wake of a surge of tributes following the artist’s passing and all sorts of suggestions for ways to continue to honor Ms. Evora’s artistry.

“I was flooded with ideas and projects after Cesaria died,” da Silva recalls. “People suggested we do cover albums, fancy tributes, that kind of thing. I decided we should keep it simple, and give the world a new album of songs that, for various reasons, had never made it onto any of her albums.”

Cesaria Evora, live in Paris 2001, a complete concert: cultural ambassador and greatest star of her native country, Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the Northwestern coast of Africa. She exceled at the highly stylized and emotionally intense ballad style known as the ‘morna,’ a melodramatic, mournful romantic music much like the Portuguese fado, full of beautiful, melancholy guitars and impassioned lyrics of love lost and life both savored and endured. This is a splendid presentation of Cesaria and her band, recorded live at Paris’s Zenith Theatre in the spring of 2001. The music, all heavenly, is a selection of favorites drawn from several albums, including sleek ballads such as ‘Sodade,’ ‘Miss Perfumado’ and ‘Angola.’

 

da Silva insisted on maintaining Evora’s demanding standards for album cohesion, and tried to craft an arc, a seamless experience for listeners, be they dedicated fans or recent converts. With many of the tracks nearly complete, it was more a matter of finding a unified, harmonious whole from pieces sometimes recorded decades apart.

The result captures Evora’s many facets, from the earthy and ribald to the sorrowful yet passionate. Filled with tales of longing and distance—the call of Cape Verde to the many homesick migrants who have been forced to leave the islands—Mãe Carinhosa channels all of Evora’s toughness and tenderness.

 

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Review courtesy World Music News Wire

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