Cesaria Evora ‘Radio Mindelo. Early Recordings’ (Lusafrica) 4/5

Cap Verdean veteran singer Cesaria Evora has become known to an international audience at a relatively late stage in her career, but in her early twenties at the begining of the 1960s had already become the darling of national radio on the islands. This luxuriously packaged CD with extensive tri-lingual liner notes pulls together various sessions that were previously unissued and were found by chance among master tapes. Now lovingly re-mastered they represent a priceless document of Cesaria’s early career when she was struggling to make end’s meet. In fact at this time she did not even have enough money to pay for a pair of shoes and this led to her being nicknamed ‘the shoeless diva’, and also explains why to this day when performing live she does so in her bare feet.

The CD reveals that even in her youth Evora’s voice was almost fully matured and in a pared down setting that allows us to marvel at the sheer musicality of Cape Verdean morna which in influence is close to Portugese fado (the influence of the great Amalia Rodrigues is evident), but also to Cuban and Congolese rumba, and even classic Brazilian samba. From the mournful lament of ‘Mar Azul’, a song revisited in recent years, to the uplifting exuberance of ‘Terezinha’ and the forbidden fruit uncovered in ‘Frota probido’ and the anthemic cavaquinho inflections of ‘Beirona’, this is a re-issue richly deserving of repeated listening. Probably the rootsiest CD to emerge of 1960s music since Guillermo Portables’ ‘El Carretero’ in the mid-1990s.

Tim Stenhouse