The "Barefoot Diva"
Cesaria Evoria, known as the « Barefoot Diva » is certainly the most famous Cape Verdean artist, thanks to her voice, her melancholic life that allowed her to sing Morna and Coladeira, Cape Verdean genres that often took the harsh daily life of this country and Saudade, a state of melancholic longing for an absent someone or something, as major themes. An iconic figure in Cape Verde who shared her emotions when singing and that became a global sensation in her 40s!
Her early days
Born in 1941 in Mindelo, she was one of the seven children of the family, that lived in extreme poverty. When aged 7, her father, part time musician, died. Her mother, who had the impossible task to feed all the children had to put Ceasaria in an orphanage. Aged 16, after having been persuaded by a friend of hers, she started singing in Sailors’ bars and on Portuguese cruise ships that stopped in Mindelo. The start of an adventure and long career as a singer. She started singing on the national radio and became famous across the islands that make up for the cape Verdean archipelago. However, in 1975, after the newly obtained independence, because of the many bar closing that occurred because of the « African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde » which created a monopartite political system. Seeing her income plummeting, she decided to put her career on hold. This period would last for 10 years during which she had to fight against alcoholism.
Pushed by Isaura Gomes, a childhood friend of hers, she headed to Lisbon where she was invited by Bana – the King of Morna – where she was discovered by a French music producer, José da Silva, that invited her to record in Paris. There she produced the album that would put her in the spotlight ‘La Diva aux pieds nus » (the Barefoot diva). Her second studio album released in 1992 « Miss Perfumado » sold over 300.000 across the world. She became an international star aged 47!
After years of songs, her collaboration with Goran Bregovic, and Compay Segundo, she won in 2004 a Grammy Award for the best contemporary world music album for her album « Voz d’Amor ».
Display of her international status, she appeared on a Cape Verdean stamp and in 2014 introduced on the 2000 escudos banknotes. In March 2012 the third busiest aiport in Cape Verde was named after her and a sculpture of her was erected in front of the terminal building.
Health issues and death
After having underwent an open-heart surgery, she decided to end her career in September 2011 because of poor health. She would then die, a few months later in her hometown of Mindelo, of respiratory failure.
Ever since her death, her presence in the culture of the island but also in the diaspora of Cape Verdeans across the world remains unchanged. She was an artist who put Cape Verde in centre stage and was an incredible ambassador of this country. As Patrick Chamoiseau wrote « Her feet are bare, her voice is naked, and so is her heart, proffered in a parure of all the graces. Among human beings, Cesaria is a queen. »