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Cesária Évora

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Mindelo, Cape Verde (1941 – 2011)

Cesária Évora (1941-2011) was a morna singa from Cape Verde. She was known as the “barefoot diva” because of her propensity to appear on stage in her bare feet in support of the homeless and poor women and children of her country.

Born on the 27th August 1941 in the port town of Mindelo, Cape Verde, on the island of São Vicente. Long known as the queen of the , a soulful genre (related to the Portuguese ) sung in Creole-Portuguese, she mixed her sentimental folk tunes filled with longing and sadness with the acoustic sounds of guitar, cavaquinho, violin, accordion, and clarinet. Évora’s Cape Verdean blues often spoke of the country’s history of isolation and slave trade, as well as emigration; almost two-thirds of the million Cape Verdeans alive live abroad.

Évora’s voice, a finely-tuned, melancholy instrument with a touch of hoarseness, highlighted her emotional phrasing by accenting a word or phrase. Even audiences who do not understand her language could be held spell-bound by the emotions evident in her performances.

In 2004 she won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.

A heavy smoker for decades, Évora was diagnosed with heart problems in 2005. She suffered strokes in 2008 and in September 2011, when she announced she was retiring. She died at the age of seventy in São Vicente, Cape Verde on the 17th December 2011 from respiratory failure and hypertension. A Spanish newspaper reported that forty-eight hours before her death she was still receiving people in her home in Mindelo, popular for always having its doors open.

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