La diva aux pieds nus
Cesaria Evora – Cize to her friends – was born on the 27th August 1941 in Mindelo, Cape Verde. Her bright voice and physical charms were soon noticed, but her hope of a singing career remained unsatisfied. A Cape Verdean women’s group and the singer Bana both took her to Lisbon to cut a few tracks, but the recordings failed to catch the ear of a producer. In 1988, a young Frenchman of Cape Verdean extraction invited her to Paris to make a record. At 47, she had nothing to lose. Having never seen Paris, she agreed.
1988: Her first album is released: La Diva aux pieds nus (The Barefoot Diva) produced by Lusafrica. The zouk-flavoured coladera Bia Lulucha is a hit with the Cape Verdean community. She gives a first concert in Paris to a small crowd at the New Morning on the 1st October.
1990: Distino di Belita, her second album, includes acoustic mornas and electric coladeras. Its release is very low-key and her label decides to try a different tack, recording a purely acoustic record.
1991: Cesaria is in France to record her first acoustic album. Accompanied by the Mindel Band, she performs at the Angoulême Festival on the 2nd June and at the Paris New Morning on the 7th. While the Paris concert only draws a small number of Cape Verdean fans, the Angoulême concert attracts interest from the specialised press (a first article in the “Libération” daily newspaper). Her Mar Azul album is released at the end of October, word spreads and FM radio FIP play-lists the record. A new concert is organised for the 14th December at the New Morning. Her performance stuns the now mainly European audience in the packed theatre. Véronique Mortaigne writes in the “Le Monde” daily: “Cesaria Evora, a lively fifty-year-old, sings morna with mischievous devotion... (she) belongs to the world nobility of bar singers”. The legend has begun to take shape.
1992: With Mar Azul, media excitement grows and radio stations such as France Inter play-list the track. Cesaria performs at the Nîmes Feria on the 7th June and Miss Perfumado is released in France in October. The press compare Cesaria to Billie Holliday. Critics enthuse over the sweetness of her voice and provide many details that fuel her legend: Cesaria’s extravagant taste for cognac and tobacco, her hard life on Cape Verde’s forgotten islands, the warm nights of Mindelo... Concerts at the Paris Théâtre de la Ville on the 11th and 12th December are sold out a month in advance. Her first Brussels concert is at the Botanique (7th December).
1993: Miss Perfumado is a smash hit in France (more than 300,000 copies sold to date). Cize performs for the first time in Lisbon at the Teatro São Luis (25th May) and the police are forced to hold back a crowd of fans who cannot get into the hall. Two full houses at the Paris Olympia on the 12th and 13th June complete her triumph in France (the show is recorded and a live album released on Parisian label Mélodie in 1996). She begins to tour the world: Barcelona (21st June), the Montreal Spectrum (14th July), Japan (end of October) and France (30 concerts at the end of 1993).
1994: Concerts in São Paulo (May). Caetano Veloso performs on stage with Cesaria and announces that she has a place among the great female singers who have inspired him. Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Africa, the West Indies… Cesaria is a stage phenomenon. Her Lusafrica label sign her to BMG and the record company releases a compilation entitled Sodade, les plus belles Mornas de Cesaria (Sodade, Cesaria’s finest mornas) in the autumn. She gives up drinking, but not smoking.
1995: The album Cesaria (gold in France) is released in twenty countries including the USA (200,000 copies sold to date). The album is nominated for the Grammy Awards. Cesaria appears for 10 days at the Paris Bataclan and goes on her first tour of North America. Madonna, David Byrne, Brandford Marsalis and New York society flock to see her at the Bottom Line. Goran Bregovic asks her to record the song Ausencia for the original soundtrack of Emir Kusturica’s film Underground.
1996: A year of tours: France (40 concerts), Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, Germany (11 concerts), Hong Kong, Italy, Sweden, the USA and Canada (30 concerts), Senegal, the Ivory Coast and her first (sell-out) concert in London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. She sings a duet with Caetano Veloso on the album Red Hot & Rio. The Arte TV channel devotes a documentary to her. Paulino Vieira (who co-produced the two albums Miss Perfumado and Cesaria) leaves the group and is replaced by the young, talented guitarist Rufino Almeida, known as Bau.
1997: Release of the album Cabo Verde. Concerts programmed at the Olympia in March and a world tour including her third tour of the USA. The album Cabo Verde is also nominated for the Grammy Awards.
1998: Cesaria is on the road again accompanied by Jacinto Pereira (cavaquinho), José Paris (bass), Luis Ramos (guitars), Nando Andrade (piano), Totinho (saxophones and percussion) and Bau (guitars, cavaquinho, violin, band leader). From Greece to Japan, Israel to Portugal and the West Indies to Lebanon, Cesaria travels the world in 1998, but still finds time to record material for an album whose release is planned for April 1999. Before then, at the end of October, BMG releases the first Best of Cesaria Evora, which includes all her fans’ favourite songs, as well as Besame Mucho (sung in Spanish), recorded the previous year for the original soundtrack of the film Great Expectations. In France, this Best of is certified gold three months later in January.
1999: The year 1999 begins with a Grammy nomination for the album Miss Perfumado (released in France in 1992, it only came out in the USA in 1998). The new album, entitled Café Atlantico, is released in France (300,000 copies to date), then worldwide in May. In March, Cesaria begins a world tour in Greece and again performs in North America in September and October. On stage, the band is enlarged to reflect the festive feel of the new repertoire: 12 musicians (including a violin section) are now led by pianist Nando Andrade. The tour ends in São Salvador, Brazil, just after a series of four concerts given at the Paris Olympia from the 7th to the 10th December. There, Cesaria receives several gold records presented by different BMG subsidiaries.
2000: Café Atlantico is nominated for the Grammy Awards and Cesaria wins a French Victoire de la Musique award in the “Best World Album” category, just before taking to the road again in April for her first major Latin American tour of Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. After Scandinavia in May, she sets out on another tour (of festivals) in the USA and Europe.
2001: São Vicente di longe, Cesaria Evora’s 8th studio album is recorded in Paris, La Havana and Rio de Janeiro. Nearly sixty musicians, arrangers and sound engineers work on the project in an environment that bears absolutely no resemblance to the conditions the singer recorded in at the start of her studio career. The album is as strikingly successful as Café Atlantico. It is also nominated for the Grammy Awards in the USA and the Victoires de la Musique in France. Cesaria is still on the road: 120 concerts in 2001 alone, including the Paris Zénith with around twenty Cape Verdean artists.
2002: A new major tour is planned that will take Cesaria to the five continents, with – for the first time – a series of concerts in Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, Macedonia, Hungary), as well as Singapore, Tahiti and Nouméa. On the 20th June, BMG publishes an Anthology, compiling live audience favourites and a new version of Sodade sung in a duet with Bonga, the greatest vocal artist in Angolan music and one of Cesaria’s oldest friends.
2003: begins with 3 concerts in Hong-Kong (1, 2 and 3 March). This new world tour includes Spain, Romania, Mexico, among other countries, together with a huge North American tour, including 40 cities east to West. On June 17th, BMG releases Club Sodade, a project bringing together 10 of the Diva’s best songs, revisited by some of the most creative DJ’s of the house scene: Carl Craig, Kerri Chandler, Pepe Bradock, Señor Coconut, Francois K., and many others… This release is a prelude to Cesaria’s new studio album, entitled Voz d’Amor, published by BMG internationaly in September 2003, and highly acclaimed by the press worldwide.
2004: Voz d'Amor is awarded in the beginning of 2004, in the « Best World Music Album » category, by both a GRAMMY AWARD (in the US) and a VICTOIRE DE LA MUSIQUE (in France). The year 2004 is a very European year for Cesaria: she gives 82 concerts in 24 different European countries. Amongst them 5 sold out shows in Paris' Le Grand Rex. This series of concert is filmed for a DVD, that is released on the following October.
2005: Cesaria begins the year 2005 with a tour which brings her from the Baltic States to South Africa. Due to a surgical operation she has to interrupt the tour in May, just before several shows planned in the United States and Canada. Fortunately, this interruption is quite short. In September, Cesaria returns to the studios to record her new album, and goes back on a tour from Siberia (4 shows in October) to Brazil.
2006: Rogamar, Cesaria’s tenth album is released on March 6th. Fifteen tracks, including a duet with Ismaël Lô on Africa Nossa, make this album sound like a link between Africa, Europe and Brazil. Cesaria begins a new tour in North America (Mexico, U.S.A. and Canada) before playing in Paris at Le Grand Rex and at some of major European festivals.
2007: Cesaria begins her 2007 tour in Hungary with a show in Debrecen and two others in Budapest on April 6th, 7th and 8th before performing in Russia in Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Yekaterinburg in front of a won over audience. Her success in the former eastern block does not decrease but unfortunately that series of concerts is put to an end and her tour in the US scheduled for June and July cancelled. The doctors have diagnosed a coronary problem and decide to have Cesaria operated. She only hits the road again at the end of the year with a series of shows in Russia.
2008: The new tour starts in Australia. But suffering from a stroke after her Melbourne concert, Cesaria is admitted at the hospital and is repatriated to Paris for further examination. The tour is cancelled and Cize is obligated to rest for several months. Lusafrica takes advantage of that quiet period to release the recordings Cesaria had done for various local radio stations of Mindelo when she was in her twenties back in the early 1960s. Released in November, the Radio Mindelo album comes with a richly illustrated book with pictures and documents of the time. These 22 tracks, mostly exclusive, delight the fans, helping them wait for a new studio album.
2009: Cesaria is doing much better and gets back onstage but she needs to take it easy so her public appearances become less frequent than in the past. Her new album Nha Sentimento is scheduled for October 26th. Recorded between February and May 2009 in Mindelo and Paris, it includes 14 tracks mainly written by her two fetish authors Manuel de Novas and Teofilo Chantre.
1988 « La Diva aux Pieds Nus » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva
1990 « Distino di Belita » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva et Ramiro Mendes
1991 « Mar Azul » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva
1992 « Miss Perfumado » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : Paulino Vieira
1995 « Cesaria (Lusafrica), réalisateur : Paulino Vieira
1997 « Cabo Verde » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva et Rufino Almeida (Bau)
1999 « Café Atlantico » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva
2001 « São Vicente di Longe » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva
2003 « Voz d’Amor (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva et Nando Andrade
2006 « Rogamar » (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva et Nando Andrade
2009 « Nha Sentimento» (Lusafrica), réalisateur : José da Silva et Nando Andrade
2008 « Radio Mindelo » (Lusafrica) – Ré-édition d’enregistrements de Cesaria réalisés pour différentes radios à Mindelo, au début des années 60.
Other albums by same artist