Cesaria Evora

Cesaria EvoraPlaying to a large, highly appreciative audience, Cesaria Evora and her skilled eight-piece band gave an entrancing, fresh and warm-hearted concert at Hamer Hall on Sunday March 2nd. This singer, whose voice and aura emanate a kind of wisdom and authority, the qualities of one who has lived a full life, felt, given and perhaps suffered much, has gained worldwide popularity since the revival of her career in France twenty years ago. Considered the greatest contemporary exponent of morna, the national music of the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of West Africa, her sound is a rich and potent blend of African, Portuguese and Brazilian influences, beautiful winding melodies based on fast, subtle, intricate rhythms. The effect is difficult to describe, but impossible to mistake. The melancholy of Portuguese fado is blended with a kind of energy and vitality from the beat, the sadness of the lyrics and voice balanced and transcended by an optimistic physicality. The beauty of her music and personality seem above all to be based on consolation, a kind of elegant, sorrowful dignity. Her personal philosophy, she says, is to live simply and to enjoy life, and it shows.

She has stated that her themes are ‘love, separation, the sea’, but she goes on to describe love as ‘something that does not exist’. We are already in the region of sodade (originally Portuguese saudade), variously translated as homesickness, nostalgia, longing, and regret, and perhaps this is natural in the context of her native country, its islands floating in the wild Atlantic. Her music, its sounds and sentiments, certainly crosses borders; her song Sodade was the first non-French hit in France, and here it is hard to imagine another foreign language artist who could fill halls to capacity.

No praise is too great for her band. The mandolin-like sound of the cavaquinho, the Portuguese guitar, was beautiful to hear, but so were the other guitars, piano, the two percussionists, the violinist and saxophone player. The two latter, apart from their obvious skill, were much at ease physically too; there can be few violinists who dance when they’re playing (and often when they’re not), and a saxophonist who plays alto, tenor and percussion in a single song certainly knows what he’s about. The band has an accomplished, light and refined sound, ideally suited to the wistful, engaging melodies, and also a kind of reticent naturalness which won the audience over from the beginning. Cesaria has said I would like to speak with them [the audience] but they don't understand me. I’m not so sure about that; through her and the band’s evident desire to communicate and share their country’s music, I think I understood quite a lot, and willingly joined in the standing ovation.


The Arts Centre and Arts Projects Australia present
Cesaria Évora

Venue: The Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Date/Time: Sunday 2 March 8pm
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166, www.ticketmaster.com.au or at the Arts Centre

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