March 30, 2006

Cesaria Evora

In yet another example of how "chance" encounters can have a lasting influence, I'll tell you the story of how I discovered the wonderful music of Cesaria Evora.

In November of 2001 we made a business trip to Paris - the first trip since 9/11 and we were pretty shaky. The flight was fine, but the crush of people waiting to clear immigration at Charles de Gaulle Airport was terrible. Many international flights had arrived at the same time, and the immigration facility was overwhelmed. So we waited with the crowd of people and slowly made our way forward. Ahead of us in line was a group of about 10 musicians, carrying their instruments and Cuban passports. They didn't speak much English but as we were all in line together we started talking and I asked them where they were coming from and where they were going. It turned out that they had just flown in from Toronto, Canada, and were going to record an album in Paris. They were the back-up band for Cesaria Evora, whom I had never heard of before, but they showed me her picture and the announcement for a new recording. I later asked some French friends if they knew her music and everyone knew and loved her.

We returned to the States and bought one of her albums, "L'Essentiel". It was fabulous. She is a native of Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa, and sings in a lovely Brazilian-inspired style, like a Portugese version of Buena Vista Social Club. I bought 2 more albums "Café Atlantico" and "São Vicente" and love to listen to them with a glass of wine in front of a fire in the evening.

Last night we went to a concert she gave at the old Beacon Theatre on Broadway. It was her only New York appearance and I was thrilled to get tickets. The audience members were middle aged professionals who worshiped Evora like cult followers. Very un-assuming, Cesaria Evora followed her band onto the stage in bare feet and smoking a cigarette. Without any words of introduction, she started singing and the crowd went wild. She is an older woman, but with a beautiful, rich voice, despite the smoking! Backed up by a superb 9 piece band, Cesaria Evora sang her classics and a few new songs, in French and Portugese, for 90 minutes, with one little on-stage cigarette break during which we were entertained by her sensational sax player. As an encore, she sang the classic "Besame Mucho" and many of us sang along. By the end of the evening the audience was on its feet dancing and everyone went home on Cloud 9.

You can check out her story and her music on at Enjoy!

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