Cesária Évora’s 78th Birthday

Cesária Évora’s 78th Birthday

Cesária Évora’s 78th Birthday – Today’s Doodle celebrates world-renowned Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora. Born in Mindelo, a port city on the island of São Vicente off the West African coast on this day in 1941, Cesária grew up in an orphanage and began singing in bars and cruise ships as a teenager. Her specialty was morna, the bluesy national music of Cape Verde, which she would bring to an international audience—earning many accolades, including a Grammy Award.

Évora’s poignant voice was perfectly suited to morna music, and her life experiences imbued her songs of love and loss with unmistakable feeling. Known for performing barefoot, she sang in Kriolu, a blend of Portugese and African dialects, accompanied by piano, guitar, or cavaquinho, a four-stringed Portuguese guitar. Although she was invited to sing on local radio, and two of these recordings were released in Europe, she could not support herself solely with her music career and retired from singing for many years.

In her mid-40s, Évora traveled to Portugal for a recording session, where she impressed Josè Da Silva, a French concert promoter of Cape Verdean descent. Da Silva invited her to Paris, and starting in the late 1980s, Évora recorded several albums for his label, starting with La Diva aux pieds nus (“The Barefoot Diva”), which brought her to a new audience.

Évora went on to tour the world and won a 2003 Grammy Award for her album Voz d’amor, as well as two Kora awards from the African music industry.

Never distracted by stardom, she worked hard even in declining health and used her fame to help others, serving as an ambassador for the UN’s World Food Program. The airport on her home island of São Vicente was named in her honor, with a statue and mural commemorating the beloved “Queen of Morna.”



Special thanks to the family of Cesária Évora for their partnership on this project. Below, her granddaughter Janete Évora shares her thoughts on the singer’s legacy.

Courtesy of: N’KRUMAH LAWSON-DAKU, PARIS, July 2009

My grandmother, Cesária Évora, was a true force of nature. Her family called her Yaya, which means “Grandma” in many Africa tribes. But her nickname actually came from my older brother, who couldn’t pronounce “Cesária” when he was little. “Yaya” was his best effort at an abbreviation.

Despite her lack of formal education, Yaya was one of the most intelligent women I have ever met. More than this, what stuck with me was her kindness and her willingness to help others. Nevertheless, she was blessed with a strong and inflexible personality, which also had a certain sarcastic streak.

Despite her serious gaze and that powerful voice known for singing so many melancholic songs, Cesária also had a wonderful sense of humor and loved sharing funny anecdotes.

She dedicated the song “Esperança irisada” to me. When she sung it, I danced to her voice. But apparently she was not as moved by my singing. In fact, she used to tell me I had a terrible voice and should stick to dancing instead.

“Yaya,” I once said to her, “give me 20 dollars, and I will sing.” Her answer became one of my favorite anecdotes: “I will give you 50 dollars to keep your mouth shut,” she said.

Even though I didn’t inherit her vocal talents, I appreciated my grandmother’s sense of humor. She knew how to turn a bad voice into a good joke.

Courtesy of: N’KRUMAH LAWSON-DAKU, PARIS, July 2009

You can find more about Cesária Évora’s 78th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page


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