The world lost one of its most magnificent, distinctive voices this weekend when Cesaria Evora passed away on Sunday at the age of 70. The woman known as The Barefoot Diva for her habit of performing sans shoes began singing morna--a lush, soft-focused Cape Verdean genre that merges African rhythms and folk styles with Portuguese fado and British sea shanties--as a teenager in her native Sao Vicente. It took the rest of the world a while to catch up: Evora had her first global hit record in her late forties with 1988's La Diva Aux Pied Neux (hence the nickname).
The world soon fell in love with her smoky alto and the graceful, often mournful passion with which she wielded it. A rather prolific (second) career followed, with many acclaimed albums, including 1999's brilliant and beloved Café Atlantico. She inspired and paved the way for the next generation of husky-voiced, innovative young morna singers, including Lura, Sara Tavares and Mayra Andrade. And she toured--extensively, almost religiously, only stopping this past September due to health concerns. Her physical health may not have been stable, but that voice, though older and wiser, was still capable of coaxing and caressing with dreamy, heart-rending elegance.
Evora's passing is not only a blow to world music, but to the musical world overall. We honor her life and legacy with this collection of some of The Barefoot Diva's most lushly gorgeous, lovingly crooned songs.