Google has today honoured the Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora by commemorating what would have been her 78th birthday with a Google doodle.
Évora was born on 27th August 1941. She started singing at a tender age and later took it up as a career. Despite facing numerous challenges, she made a breakthrough in the 1980s. She got the name "the barefoot diva" because performed barefoot. She was also referred to as the Queen of Morna, a music and dance genre from Cape Verde.
Évora had humble beginnings. She was born in Mindelo in Cape Verde. Her father, a part-time musician, died when she was seven. At the age of ten, her mother put her in an orphanage as she (her mother) could not raise all six children.
In the 1960s, Évora started singing on Portuguese cruise ships that stopped at Mindelo as well as on radio. In 1985, the Cape Verdean musician Bana invited her to perform in Portugal. While in Portugal, she met the producer José da Silva who invited her to record in Paris. She gained international success in 1988 with her first commercial album, La Diva Aux Pieds Nus.
Even though she was a reputable singer from the early ages of her life, Évora gave up on music in the 1970s due to financial difficulties. After the success of her 1988 album, she started releasing an album every two years or so for 21 years. Her last album, Nha Sentimento, was released in 2009, two years before her death.
Évora won numerous awards from her work. In 1995, her album Cesária was nominated for a Grammy award. In 1997, she won the KORA All African Music Awards in three categories: Best Artist of West Africa, Best Album and Merit of the Jury. In 2003, her album Voz d’Amor won a Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music Album category.
Évora's legacy also includes her image on postage stamps and Cape Verdean currency. Several public infrastructures have been named after her including an international airport. She was also honoured her with a statue for the contribution she made to the music industry.
Évora's music continues to influence other people and several artists. In 2013, the Belgian singer Stromae released his famous album, Racine carrée, with a track, Ave Cesaria, that honours Évora who is one of Stromae's favourite artistes.
Some people interpreted her singing barefoot as being in solidarity with the poor. However, Évora clarified in an interview with the Washing Post in 2001 saying, "People used to say that I did that in solidarity with the hungry people and all the poor people of the world, but that’s not true. In Cape Verde, lots of people are like me. They just don’t like to wear shoes."
Nonetheless, Évora was an ambassador for the United Nations’ World Food Programme, a humanitarian food-assistance initiative that delivers food in emergencies and fights world hunger.
Header Image Credit: Cabo Verde