Source : http://worldmusic.about.com
Cesaria Evora was born in 1941 in Mindelo, Cape Verde. The Cape Verde Islands are an extremely impoverished archipelago off the coast of Senegal. They are inhabited by the descendants of both African slaves and Portuguese slave traders. The Cape Verde islands are considerably dry, surrounded by water but seldom seeing rain.
A Musical Family:
Cesaria Evora came from a musical family. Her father was a violinist, and her uncle played clarinet. Her father died when she was quite young, but in her late teens and early twenties, she would occasionally perform with her uncle in bars throughout the island. She also performed with her own band. Generally, she performed for tips or drinks, never making much money out of the deal.
In the early 1970s, Cesaria Evora stopped performing altogether to raise her family. This was a time of considerable joy and heartbreak for her, as she was loved and left by several men. She did not perform again until 1985.
Return to the Stage:
A Cape Verdean women’s organization invited Evora to record a demo CD as part of a promotional effort for the islands. This demo became the album Tchintchi Roti, which caught the ear of French-Cape Verdean record producer Jose da Silva, who invited her to Paris to record. These sessions resulted in La Diva aux Pieds Nus (“The Barefoot Diva”), which garnished her renown among the French press.
The 1992 release of Miss Perfumado turned Evora into a bona fide star in France, but it wasn’t until her 1995 eponymous release that Evora was introduced to the United States. She quickly became a star in the World Music scene, and on her subsequent U.S. tour, orchestra seats at her shows were literally filled with American superstars: people like Madonna and Branford Marsalis caught her New York show.
The album Cesaria Evora was nominated for a Grammy in 1995, and several more Grammy nominations and major awards followed. In 2003, Voz D’Amor finally won her a Grammy.
Cesaria Evora was frequently compared to divas like Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf, but her sound is all her own. She sings a style of music called morna. Morna is probably the best-known form of music to come from the Cape Verde islands, which, like the American Blues, is really a relatively new form of music, deeply rooted in tradition. The music is heavily rhythmic, and tends toward wistful and sad lyrics. Evora was known for her rich contralto.
“The Barefoot Diva”:
Cesaria Evora was known as “The Barefoot Diva”. She generally performed in bare feet, as a sign of solidarity for the large number of women and children back home in the Cape Verdean Islands who cannot afford shoes. In recent years, Evora became a spokeswoman for international hunger organizations with the primary goal of helping Cape Verdean children.
Whiskey and Cigarettes:
Evora was always known as a fan of whiskey and cigarettes. She gave up drinking in the mid-1990s for health reasons, but kept smoking for several years beyond that, lighting up a cigarette mid-concert at nearly every show she performed.
Cesaria Evora began to suffer severe health problems in 2007/2008, beginning with a coronary problem and including a stroke and multiple heart surgeries. In 2011, her doctors in France recommended that she stop performing, and she announced her official retirement in October. Cesaria Evora died on December 17, 2011.
“… 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 – Cesaria Evora”