Cesaria Evora

Cesaria Evora

Our Barefoot Diva


Cesaria Evora is first and foremost a mystery. She delights, fascinates and charms. Whatever our color, she is at once our friend, big sister and mother. When she comes to the Antilles, islands of zouk and beats, huge crowds stand in line at the ticket office. Everybody flocks to her concerts, from gros-ka fundamentalists to hardcore biguine-mazurka fans and addicts of rap and ragga: all want to immerse themselves in her melancholy. They take their shares of wrinkles and milk of youth. I have never had a chance to see her. The venues are always sold out. I can only imagine, gaze at her photos, be absorbed by her videos and dream of her tempi full of ancient pain.

In her book devoted to the Cabo-Verdean singer, Véronique Mortaigne makes it clear that a mystery such as hers cannot be solved, but only approached, experienced and revisited. This makes her fine writing and true sensitivity magnificent. She has understood that the secret of Cesaria Evora branches into many seams. Rather than a journey, she has to map erratic wanderings misted by fumes of punch and catchupa, through a geography of shadows, oases and light. Naturally, she has to listen to Cesaria – neither a peasant woman nor a ‘lady of the sea’, but a figure glimpsed in winding streets, bars and stores. She has to hear her delicious conversations with Vitoria, her good friend since childhood; learn the story of her fits of anger and torrent of insults; see her living in Mindelo, her island, town, port and hut, by a sea teeming with the hatreds and loves of those who were both forced to leave and compelled to remain. She sees the people who surround and love Cesaria, and those who support or take advantage of her. She sees her apron with its vast pockets, her plastic hair curlers and her waddling walk as she carries baskets of fish and herbs. She sees what Cesaria eats and learns the recipes, giving their number. She tastes the rum the singer shares freely, that did her so much harm and which the singer has no longer touched “since Christmas ’94”. She also has to understand the Cabo Verde archipelago and its initial catastrophe: Portuguese colonization and slavery. And then its struggle towards freedom and independence, its combats and alienations, its griefs and joys, and its mystery of life and salt in the growing threat of the Sahel.

Cesaria Evora is of that soil in the dryness of the sands. The book is not a biography, but an obscure revelation brimming with earth, life, music, simplicity, friendship, love, questions and lucidity. In its pages, I realize that Cesaria Evora is a Creole land in herself, whose diversity of imagination and people produces a music that connects with everyone, where melody, harmony and multiple rhythms encounter human suffering in a melting pot of blues, jazz and morna. I realize that Cesaria Evora is also a suffering – firstly hers, that of her life, her disastrous love affairs and a destructive intoxication to compensate for the wilting of the buds of hope. That familiar life of extremes ties in with ours in a tangible bond. When she sings, she brings us an entire life, escaping from the sordid bars and the fake gilt of socialite residences – the homes of Cabo Verde dotores who wanted to hear her sing. She also brings us her stationary exile, an irrepressible goal of exile that now lingers in each of us, drifting islands in a world that is a world unto itself. She reveals an incomparable sadness about everything possible. She tells us that happiness is lost but within reach. She speaks of black wounds of absence and silence. She describes the precious loam of memory. She tells of death and oblivion, loyalty and patience, liberty offered over bitter waves that one dares to tread. She tells of an open world of islands that are so accessible, so amenable to cultural fusions and the winds of the earth. She tells of inevitability, joy, hope, rounded strength and sharpened patience. Her feet are bare, her voice is naked, and so is her heart, proffered in a parure of all the graces. Among human beings, Cesaria is a queen.

Article written by Patrick Chamoiseau, published in the newspaper Le Monde for the publication of the biography written by Véronique Mortaigne, shortly after the release of the album “Cabo Verde” in February 1997. 

Patrick Chamoiseau, a French writer from Martinique, was born on December 3, 1953, in Fort-de-France. Author of novels, short stories and essays, he is a theoretician of Creole culture and also writes for the theater and cinema.


La Diva Aux Pieds Nus – 1988

Distino Di Belita – 1990

Mar Azul – 1991

Miss Perfumado – 1992

Cesaria – 1995

Cabo Verde – 1997

Cesaria Best Of – 1997

Café Atlantico – 1999

Sao Vicente di Longe – 2001

Mornas & Coladeras (Compilation) – 2002

Voz d’Amor – 2003

Club Sodade (Remix Album) – 2003

Rogamar – 2006

Radio Mindelo – 2008

Nha Sentimento – 2009

Cesaria Evora & – 2010

Miss Perfumado (20th anniversary) – 2012

Mae Carinhosa – 2013

Greatest Hits – 2015

Carnaval de Mindelo (EP) – 2018

Nha Cancera Ka Tem Medida (Djeff Remix) – 2018

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Sia Tolno

Sia Tolno

Explosive: a woman takes up Afrobeat!


The Yoruba, funk, jazz fusion of Afrobeat is rough, rowdy and political. It was introduced at the end of the 60s by the prince of the Nigerian resistance, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Yet Guinea’s Sia Tolno is not afraid to take up Fela’s torch. Her third album, African Woman, challenges male supremacy in a forceful style derived from Ghanaian ‘high-life’.


African Woman – 2014

Mouka Mouka- 2014 (EP)

My Life – 2011

Odju Watcha – 2011 (EP)

Eh Sangah – 2009

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Icon of Angolan music


Icon of Angolan music Bonga is on first-name terms with the stars and has given true meaning to the concept (albeit multifaceted) of ‘Africanness’. From Luanda to Rotterdam, Paris to Lisbon, and everywhere else, Bonga belongs to that caste of African singers who have sublimated their roots. His rasping, powerful voice is immediately identifiable and anyone listening to his albums remains entranced from start to finish. He was born José Adelino Barcelo de Carvalho in Kipiri on 5 September 1942, but changed his name to Bonga Kuenda when he reached his teens, already showing a keen awareness of the realities of Portuguese colonialism. He learned about music from his father, and rapidly grasped its potential impact when linked to the political aspirations of his generation and an inexhaustible melancholic vein.

As he is always ready to explain, he never faltered in his principles.
“All Angolan culture was under Portuguese domination. Traditional languages were banned, as was African music. We had no weapons to fight with, so we organised cultural resistance, especially by forming folk groups, including Kissueia, my first band. With Kissueia, I sang songs that revived ancestral African forms and whose lyrics clearly referred to the troubled situation at the time, poverty, colonial violence and latent revolt.”

In the mid-Sixties, Bonga’s athletic talents took him to Portugal. There, he ironically became the national 400-metres champion under his birth name while playing an active part in the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. When the Salazar regime finally realised he was playing a double game, he managed to get out just in time and went into exile in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
There, in 1972, he recorded a harrowing first album soberly entitled “Angola 72”, with Capeverdean musicians for the Dutch label Morabeza (today available on Lusafrica). This key record quickly became something of a soundtrack for Angola’s struggle for independence. Its star song was the emblematic “Mona Ki Ngi Xica”, a lamento of unfathomable Atlantic depth.

His wanderlust then took him to Paris, where he recorded a second album that proved just as important as the first – “Angola 74”, featuring a magnificent version of “Sodade”, which would be popularised by Cesaria Evora nearly twenty years later. With Salazar ousted and Angola now independent, Bonga divided his time between Lisbon and Luanda. He had many hits, but refused to play the part of a Portuguese-speaking Julio Iglesias, although certain producers urged him to do so.

It was not until 2000 that he signed with Lusafrica and immediately released the irresistible “Mulemba Xangola”, sung as a duet with Lura. The song dealt with disturbingly-topical, universal themes. In a way, with its ambience of national reconciliation, this record marked the end of the Angolan Civil War. Three more equally cosmopolitan and danceable albums formulating strong identity-related demands – “Kaxexe” in 2003, “Maiorais” in 2005 and “Bairro” in 2008 – added the final touch to the legend of a singer in perpetual motion. Bonga is unstoppable on stage, and also when he talks about his country with stars in his eyes and a tremor in his warm, hoarse voice. Although he has been living in Lisbon and Paris for around thirty years, his personal history is terribly coherent. “I began my career as a protest singer. I criticised the Portuguese first, and then my own people. The people lost out in the end. Angola has incredible wealth. Today, the aim is happiness. I don’t want to go into politics. I’m too genuine in what I say. I’m not the kind of person to hang around waiting for freedom to happen.”

Year 2009 saw the release of the “Best of Bonga”, a collection of classics, containing also previously-unreleased (“Dikanga”), rare (“Agua Rara”, “De Maos A Abanar”) or remixed (“Kapakiao”) songs. This eighteen-track compilation covers the legacy of a free man and a great singer. Breaking down physical and musical frontiers with songs and music that appeal to the majority, Bonga is the champion of a sublimated ‘Africanness’ and the voice of a modern, peaceful Angola. Then in 2012, it was the turn of “Hora Kota” (The Time of the Elders). This is Bonga’s thirtieth album (his fifth studio album on the Lusafrica label) featuring eleven faultless new songs reporting on the state of his native Angola where he is again living after a very long absence. Bonga is a sincere man with broad shoulders. He knows how to dig in his heels and push back. The Netherlands, Paris, Belgium, Lisbon… Bonga has lived everywhere – and in all those places and more, people recognise his greatness of soul. “Hora Kota” is not for the “doutores” – the dignitaries that the downtrodden people invariably called “doctor”. It is a remedy for the blues.

At an age when most people are enjoying a well-earned retirement, Bonga is hugely in demand. Singer Bernard Lavilliers, the perpetual rebel, has covered “Mona Ki Ngi Xica” in French as a duet with the Angolan. African artists of the new generation (such as Gaël Faye and Lexxus Legal) cite his influence and Ana Moura invited him to join a tribute to Amália Rodrigues in Portugal. On his last album “Recados de Fora” (Messages from Elsewhere), Bonga – who just celebrated his 74th birthday – tells the tale of a fascinating journey across different times and continents. The Atlantic Ocean forms an ever-present connecting thread. The singer-songwriter looks back pell-mell over his youth, his increasing awareness of Portuguese colonization, how his father introduced him to music, and his love of semba, the symbol of Angolan national identity (kizomba, a favorite genre for younger generations, is a modernized version of semba). In fact, as one of the last great names in postcolonial African music, Bonga embodies semba today – a fact clearly reflected in “Tonokenu”, a song in the purest tradition of his roots.


Kintal da Banda – 2022

Banza Rémy (Bonga meets Batida) – 2018

Recados de Fora – 2016

Hora Kota – 2011

Best Of – 2009

Bairro – 2011

Maiorais – 2005

Live – 2004

Kaxexe – 2003

Mulemba Xangola – 2000

Angola 72/74 (2012 re-issue)

Angola 74 – LP (2018 re-issue)

Angola 72 – LP (2018 re-issue)

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