Living with…Cesária Évora…for a week

Cesaria Evora, Brussels June 2009

Photo by Kmeron.

I first heard the amazing voice of Cesaria Evora over ten years ago courtesy of a well-intentioned Christmas present.  These sort of presents are as much a gesture of the giver’s taste, but in this case it was an amazing discovery.  A few years before we’d found that weird category of music called ‘world’ through the Buena Vista Social Club and assorted other Cuban cousins.

And then along came Cesaria with her beautifully warm voice set above a mix of Brazilian, Cuban, African folk sound.  It was love at first hearing and the album Sao Vicente Di Longe spent many months as a regular on our turntable.

Like my ‘world’ companion last week, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Cesaria was an unlikely candidate for international music star.  Born in 1941 in Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa, her father died when she was 7 and she was placed in an orphanage at the age of 10.  She was persuaded to sing and started it all in local taverns.  Years of working local scenes, dropping out of music altogether to become a seamstress and eventual discovery in Portugal and it wasn’t until 1988 that her talents were more widely heard.  Her popularity grew across the world and she toured extensively for many years acquiring the title ‘the barefoot diva’ for her habit of never wearing shoes on stage!  A heavy smoker all her life she ceased touring in recent years due to ill health and I was very sad to hear that she died a few weeks ago just before Christmas.  Two days of national mourning were declared on Cape Verde.

We had the delight of seeing a barefoot Cesaria in concert at Warwick Arts Centre seven years ago and incredible as she was one thing sticks in your mind.  You might as well not be there!  She didn’t play big to her audience – she sang her songs to herself and her band.  You were welcome to watch and applaud, but she was going to perform anyway.  And, of course the classic Cesaria moment where she pauses half way through the concert, takes a seat at a small cafe table on the stage and lights up.  And there in front of her band and hundreds of fans has a slow intimate cigarette, savouring every moment.  A NO SMOKING sign above but nobody challenged.  And then slowly and carefully she rises, walks to the microphone and sings again.

We’d also bought the Anthologie compilation of her best songs from across the years and that became a new constant companion on long car journeys.  And I’ll draw my favourites from there- almost her theme song Sodade, is brilliant and uplifting – such a warmth for life comes from the song.  You can continue to jig to the Carnaval De Sao Vicente, maybe there’s nothing new to the happy sound but again your soul is lifted up.  But my firm favourite is Angola if only for the beautifully rhythmic clapping sequence throughout, easily surpassing any pop efforts out there – Radio Gaga this is not!  And so to celebrate here is a video clip of that song live.  Please note the coffee table and chair mid stage – useful for those mid-concert, or in this case even mid-song rests.


Thank you Cesaria for the happy memories and great songs, you can have a rest now.



One of my favourite photos of Cesaria is from the inside sleeve of the Sao Vicente Di Longe album where she is carrying a very beautiful hen across a piece of scrub land, presumably somewhere in Cape Verde.  She’s obviously done this before and there is a natural grace to the whole scene.

And it does bring me nicely to one of my current gripes.  Namely that our #henswontlay.

OK, I accept that it’s winter and things slow down in the hen world when nights are long and there’s a nip in the air.

OK, I accept that three of the grand dames of our flock are a little long in the beak now and will have slowed down production.  And it is a raw deal when mother nature causes you to moult when the weather is at it’s coldest.

OK, I accept that the other four are young and near to the point of laying.  But you’re not there and you’re taking your time.

It’s a month since the last home-laid egg graced a fried egg sandwich on a Saturday morning so it is clearly time for the girls to buckle down and delivery/lay/ whatever else is required.  To encourage them this week I plan to pipe through some appropriate music – it works for cows’ milk production, why not for hens?

So today girls, it obviously has to be Lay, Lady Lay by Bob Dylan.  I can’t promise the mood will be as relaxing as the week progresses.

You see, in that picture of Cesaria, I think she has a certain purpose to how she’s carrying that hen… bear that in mind.


Twotes of the week

@sickipediabot: “Wow,exactly as I left it!”- Thiery Henry on seeing Arsenal’s trophy cabinet.

@sixthformpoet: Being married to a cryptic crossword compiler was so frustrating. He always took her right to the end of her tether.

@SirArnold_GCMG: The perception of bias is as damaging as actual bias, which is why it’s imperative we must keep all our dodgy-looking dealings very secret