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The Traveller's Magazine
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It’s been more than two months since the Barefoot Diva passed away but Cape Verdean Morna is just as popular as ever.

Césaria Evora would never have become famous if she hadn’t crossed paths with José da Silva, a French musician. In 1987 he left one of her concerts in a little Lisbon club knowing she had something different. He went on to help Evora produce her first album a year later, Barefoot Diva in Paris. 20 years and 15 albums later, Césaria Evora has won one Grammy, two Victoires de la Music and sold more than 5 million albums around the world.


Little country I love you so much

There’s no reason to talk about her though, it’s better to listen to her music and even better, visit the country where her roots were always planted. Of her own country, she sings,

There in the sky you are a star
Here everything shines
There in the sea you are a sandy seafloor
Here everything is wet
Watching this world outside
There’s only rocky cliffs and sea

Poor country full of love
With Morna and Coladera songs
Wise country full of love
With drum circles and Funana musci

Little country I love you so much

Finding Cape Verdean Morna

This type of music is an integral part of Cape Verde culture, the islands live and breathe its rhythms, embodies it. Morna appeared in Boa Visa in the second half of the 18th century. Serious, melancholic, love songs to the sea and forlorn odes to loves lost. Take a detour to a cosy bar or a small club in Mindelo, the cultural heart of Cape Verde where you can hear local musicians bearing their souls as the morna melodies roll off their tongues.

The Baía das Gatas Festival, also known as African Woodstock, is a full moon party in August on the island of São Vincente. The festival brings together the best of the country’s morna singers and has become widely popular thanks to the success of Cesária Évora.

Quick facts

Five hundred kilometres from the Senegalese coast in the Atlantic Ocean is a small island paradise, totally serene, worlds away from what we’re used to. It’s a trip back to the Old World when you visit Cape Verde. Stretching over ten islands, this archipelago is a fusion of a utopian dream with European yet tropical culture.

  • Name: Republic of Cape Verde
  • Capital city: Praia
  • Originally a Portuguese colony, independent since 1975
  • Area: 4 000km²
  • Population: 500 000 people
  • Language: Portuguese (officially), Cape Verde creole “kriol” (most common)
Cape Verde
Evora House
Evora fishing
Evora woman

Where does music take you on your travels?

Imgs: Sophoco, Silvio Tanaka, antifluor, Expanso cultural / Flickr cc.

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4 responses to “Music: retracing Césaria Evora’s steps in Cape Verde

  1. Met Cesaria many years ago in her piano bar, she had to have a great sense of humour as she watched in amusement as I tried to release my friend who had been locked in the loo to the side of the stage. Lovely lady.

    1. Lynda, this story made me laugh out loud! I can just imagine what a scene like that would have looked like! And I bet her piano bar was the coolest place on the island!

  2. Stunning photographs! Cesaria Evora was a musical legend who showed the world that talent that Cape Verde has to offer. Her words are beautiful and poetic and really stir the soul. I hear that the Baía das Gatas festival is brilliant and I can’t wait to go some time! Vic

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