Cesaria Evora returns for sell-out Baltic shows

  • 2004-02-26
  • By Tim Ochser
RIGA - There is something truly inspiring about Cesaria Evora's success. How many other 60-something women can sell out major concert halls right around the world, and draw audiences made up of all ages? Tina Turner, anyone?

Quite simply, the reason for her immense popularity is that Cesaria Evora makes such wonderful music. Where most female singers' success stories are as much about image and PR as they are music, Evora's fame has come about through that strangely old-fashioned method known as word of mouth.
When she last played the Baltics a little over a year ago, her shows were total sell-outs, and they're sure to be the same this time around. I remember seeing her the morning after her Riga concert last year. She was sitting barefoot at a cafe table outside the Reval Hotel Latvia, chatting with some people from her entourage. Her feet were bandaged and severely swollen, but she didn't seem too bothered by the fact.
She'll be braving the dregs of the Baltic winter to play Tallinn on March 6, Riga on March 8 and Vilnius on March 9, before heading off to France. Life seems to be a never-ending world tour for the Cape Verde-born singer.
Cesaria Evora didn't really become internationally known until 1991, with the release of her album "Mar Azul." Since then she has become one of the very few African artists whose music has escaped the ridiculously generic category of "world music."
Her musical repertoire largely consists of mornas (slow, blues-influenced songs with mournful lyrics) and coladeras (up-tempo, samba-influenced tunes). Her music is at once African and Latin sounding, although there are strong elements of jazz as well. But without doubt, what really makes her music so special is her extraordinary voice. Deep, haunting and beautifully nuanced, her voice is just enchanting. Her music has been described as "sodade," which translates as something like nostalgia without sentiment.
Many critics have drawn comparisons between Cesaria Evora and Billie Holiday, and it's not hard to see why, both in a musical and personal sense. Evora has been married and deserted three times, and she smokes and drinks heavily. Embittered by experience, she has publicly vowed that no man shall ever again sleep under her roof. Famously, she also performs every concert barefoot as a symbolic gesture toward the poverty of her fellow Capverdians (although some attribute this to serious problems with her feet). As a teenager, she basically subsisted through local gigs in her native San Vincente.
Evora has recorded 10 albums all together, the last one being "Voz d'amour" (Voice of Love). Meanwhile, the accolades just keep on coming. Every year seems to bring a new award or nomination for her.
Very few African artists play in the Baltics, so it's wonderful that she's returning so soon after her last regional series of concerts. It's just a shame that the tickets are so outrageously priced. They must surely have set a record for the most expensive concert tickets in the Baltics. It may not matter to the local nouveau riche but such prices are way out of most people's range. It doesn't really matter either way, though, since there certainly won't be any empty seats on the night.

National Opera
March 6 - 8 p.m.
Tickets: 500 kroons (32 euros) - 1,000 kroons

National Opera
March 8 - 7 p.m.
Tickets: 20 lats (30 euros) - 60 lats

Vilnius Congressional
March 9 - 8 p.m.
100 litas (29 euros) - 400 litas