Cesária Évora (27 August 1941 – 17 December 2011), more commonly known as Cize, was a Cape Verdean singer-songwriter. She received a Grammy Award in 2004 for her album Voz d’Amor. Nicknamed the “Barefoot Diva” for performing without shoes, she was known as the “Queen of Morna”.
Cesária Évora was born on 27 August 1941 in Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde. When she was seven years old her father, Justino da Cruz Évora, who was a part-time musician, died, and at the age of ten she was placed in an orphanage, as her mother Dona Joana could not raise all six children. At the age of 16, she was persuaded by a friend to sing in a sailors’ tavern.
She grew up at the house in Mindelo which other singers used from the 1940s to the 1970s, at 35 Rua de Moeda. Other Cape Verdean singers came to the house, including Djô d’Eloy, Bana, Eddy Moreno, Luis Morais and Manuel de Novas (also known as Manuel d’Novas), and it was there she received her musical education.
In the 1960s, she started singing on Portuguese cruise ships stopping at Mindelo and on the local radio. In 1985, at the invitation of Cape Verdean singer Bana, she went to perform in Portugal. In Lisbon she was discovered by the producer José da Silva and invited to record in Paris.
She recorded the track “Ausência”, composed by Yugoslav musician Goran Bregovic, which was released as the second track of the soundtrack of the film Underground (1995) by Emir Kusturica.
Évora’s international success came only in 1988 with the release of her first commercial album La Diva Aux Pieds Nus, recorded in France. Before that album had been released, she recorded her first LP titled “Cesária” in 1987. This album was later released on CD in 1995 as Audiophile Legends. Her 1992 album Miss Perfumado sold over 300,000 copies worldwide. It included one of her most celebrated songs, “Sodade”.
In 1994, Bau joined her touring band and two years later, he became her musical director up to September 1999.
Her 1995 album Cesária brought her international success and the first Grammy Award nomination. In 1997, she won the KORA All African Music Awards in three categories, including “Best Artist of West Africa”, “Best Album” and “Merit of the Jury”. In 2003, her album Voz d’Amor was awarded a Grammy in the World Music category.
In 2006, Évora met with Alberto Zeppieri, an Italian songwriter, journalist and record producer and agreed to duet with Gianni Morandi, Gigi D’Alessio and Ron. The project, now in its fifth volume, gives visibility and raises funds for the UN World Food Programme, for which Évora was the ambassador from 2003.
Later in 2006, she released her next album Rogamar. It was a success and charted in six European countries including France, Poland and the Netherlands. On her tour in Australia in 2008, she suffered a stroke. In 2009, she released her final album Nha Sentimento which was recorded in Mindelo and Paris by José da Silva. The album reached number 6 in Poland and number 21 in France.
In 2009, she was made a knightess of the French Legion of Honour by the French Minister of Culture and Communications, Christine Albanel, the first Cape Verdean to become one.
She received her last award at the 2010 Kora All African Music Awards, the “Merit of the Jury” award for the second time.