Cesaria Evora: Rogamar
Cape Verde is
famous for its Afro-Portuguese-influenced music genres: the haunting
guitar-based morna and the percussive Cuba- and Brazil-influenced
coladeras. Ever since her "discovery" in 1998, vocalist
Cesaria Evora, the
so-called "Barefoot Diva," has been her country's greatest musical ambassor.
This recording features Evora interpreting old and new Cape Verdean and
Brazilian songs. Under the expert leadership of her musical director, pianist
Fernado Andrade, Evora's rich contralto is beautifully supported by guitars, the
ukelele-like cavaquinho, mandolin, strings, clarinet, and percussion.
Like Billie Holiday, Evora can inject a lyric with pathos and passion. That rare
gift is heard on the mid-tempo "Isoloada" ("Isolated"), an aching song about a
beautiful, imprisoned mulatto girl, written by Evora's poet uncle, B. Leza, and
the equally heart-wrenching "Amdjer De Nos Terra" ("Woman of Our Land"), which
tells of the suffering of Cape Verdean women. The upbeat tracks include the
sax-laced, vocal choired, "Pomba" ("The Dove")and Luis Morais's "Velocidade"
("Velocity"). "Jardim Prometido" ("Promised Garden") is a nice take on the
American standard "Greenfields" by another Cape Verdean composer, Teofilo
Chantre. The title track features Evora in pan-African fellowship with musicians
from Cuba, Brazil, and Madagascar, showing that the music of her homeland has
something for everyone. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
Like Ireland, Cape Verde is a former island colony which has perennially lost its young people to emigration. And like its Irish counterpart, Verdean music is filled with songs of separation and homesickness. Cesaria Evora, the greatest Verdean singer of her generation, includes several of those songs on Cabo Verde, her sixth album overall but only her second release in the U.S. With a population descended from former Portuguese colonialists and former African slaves, Cape Verde closely resembles Brazil and has produced a music with similar rippling syncopation and light, sensual vocals, though the Verdean sound is marked by the breezy lilt characteristic of islands. But when Evora sings mournfully of a "Partida" (departure) that will take her love far away, anyone who has ever experienced such a separation will recognize the mix of pain and affection in her voice. That voice is a very special instrument, for it glides gracefully over the supple beat even as it resounds deeply in Evora's lower range and fills up with warm, enveloping resonance. She is backed by a small, all-acoustic Verdean combo led by the ukulele-like, four-string cavaquinho. American jazz great James Carter plays tenor saxophone on "Coragem Irmon," but Evora has no problem matching his thick, buttery tone. --Geoffrey Himes
With her haunting singing style--a
zesty Luso-African mélange of Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday--the Cape Verdean
Cesaria Evora put the moving and melancholy
musical genre called morna on the map with her critically acclaimed
recordings Miss Perfumado and Cafe Atlantico. São
Vicente is named for Evora's island homeland and is augmented with
percussion, rhythm section, strings, and horns. Evora's songs of love and
longing range from the classy midtempo strains of "São Vicente Di Longe" and the
carnival dances of "Nutridinha" to the beautiful piano/vocal duet "Negue" with
Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés. She also swings the Cuban danzon/cha cha cha
on "Lindo Mimosa" with the celebrated Cuban group Orquesta Aragon. The singer
rocks with R&B handclaps on "Hommen Na Meio Di' Homen" and testifies on the
gospel-influenced "Bondade e Maldade." Her duets with Brazilian Caetano Veloso
on "Tiempo y Silencio" and "Regresso," and with American legend Bonnie Raitt,
add more flavors to this tasty musical dish. --Eugene Holley Jr.
After having covered the sensual
nightclub material of Miss Perfumado and Cesaria
Evora, Evora left us wondering where she could possibly go next.
She returned with Café Atlantico, blowing us away with her luscious voice
and widened repertoire of Brazilian- and Cuban-influenced music. With touches of
string accompaniment, Evora's music dances with light energy and woos with the
classic morna sound, leaving us to ponder what amazing music she'll
master on her next album. --Karen K. Hugg