WASHINGTON – There were no fans hanging near the star’s hotel room door. No camera flashes. Five-time Grammy nominee Cesaria Evora,62,stood ironing a T-shirt and getting ready to take a nap a few hours before her Friday night concert.
The T-shirt was for the following day’s trip to another of the 18 concerts on her American tour,which ends Nov. 23 in Philadelphia.
She came here to promote her new album “Voz D'Amor” – a new collection of mornas,slow-paced,blues-steeped songs with mournful and often-fatalistic lyrics,and coladeras,spirited up-tempo tunes that share a kinship with Brazilian samba – all sung in Kreolu,the language of her native Cape Verde.
Small,wearing plain clothes and closed-cropped hair,she tried small talk in a mixture of a little English and French,looking in vain for a cigarette,before the interpreter arrived to translate from Portuguese. And give Evora a cigarette.
“Artists have their own language and their own music,” Evora said through the interpreter.
“Do I have to sing in English to be in America? Culture doesn't have to do with the language; culture is culture in any part of the world.”
Evora was born in West Africa's Cape Verde in 1941 and started singing in bars and nightclubs in her 20s. Her first four albums did not attract much attention,and she took a break from music to start a family.
In 1988,a Frenchman of Cape Verdean blood offered her a chance to go to Paris and record an album,which launched Evora in a successful career in France and Africa.
“I can never forget France,” she said breathing in deeply from yet another cigarette. “All my success started in France and then spread all over the world.”
Her ascent to international acclaim did not start until 1991 when she released her first unplugged album “Mar Azul,” according to information provided by D. Baron Media Relations Inc. of Santa Monica,Calif.
It wasn't long before she found equal appreciation in the rest of Europe,though her break in the United States didn't come until 1995 with the release of her self-titled album. It became a hit and was nominated for a Grammy. At that time,her earlier albums,previously unavailable in the United States,were reissued and heightened her popularity,leading to widespread tour dates.
“With all the shows,I meet so many people — there is nothing more rewarding,” said Evora,also known as the Barefoot Diva. “A person who doesn't have a career can just go home.”
Evora said she feels the American public has accepted her.
“They wouldn't give me five nominations for the Grammy if they wouldn't like and accept me,” she said. She also received a gold record for the “Great Expectations” movie soundtrack song “Bessa me mucho.”
Evora said that,though she should have had more than 14 albums at her age,her overall career stands for her artistic development.
“My voice is a little older,” she said.
“Everything else remained the same,” she said,explaining that her success changed only her financial status. “I am the same simple person as I was before.”
She stands almost immobile on the stage,barefoot,wearing simple clothes and gold jewelry.
“I just don't like shoes,” she said. “In Cape Verde,there are a lot of people who walk barefoot. It's so hot,they'll even burn your feet.”
She paused from singing during her sold-out concert here only to introduce the band or take a cigarette break. She said she has been smoking for 42 years because all bar singers learn to do that.
“I smoke,and I know it might harm me,but until now,nothing happened,” Evora said.
After years of touring the world,all cities and all crowds are alike,said Evora,adding that she is usually to tired to sightsee.
“I don't see any difference because my shows are always sold out.”
She said it doesn't matter whether she sings on the stage or in the studio. She loves all her fans equally. They're all a part of her long-lasting career,she said.
In her free time she goes home to Cape Verde where she take care of her house,cooks or entertains friends.
She doesn't have a husband but she had three children with different fathers and is a grandmother of two. At the end of the year,she spends three months with her family.
The secret of her success lies in her talent,a “gift from Mother Nature,” she said.
She has no regrets,nor does she have any career goals left.
“Basically the only thing left for me is to die,” Evora said with a melancholic smile.
“There's nothing much to say,I've done it all.”