Saturday, February 14, 2009

CESARIA EVORA - Radio Mindelo (Tumbao)

This well-presented record of the Barefoot Diva's earliest recordings offers a fascinating taste of the early development of Cape Verde's most celebrated singer. Still only in her early 20s when she recorded this series of songs for Radio Barlavento in her home town of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente, Cesaria had already been singing for half a dozen years or so, and there's already a confidence to her delivery, the maturity already evident in the way she holds the long, mournful notes or playfully dances over the lighter rhythms. The recording quality is reasonable if slightly muted in places, these recordings originally having been made live to reel-to-reel tape in front of a single microphone. Known as Cize at the time (the title of one of the highlights of the collection), Cesaria's repertoire is split between the uptempo "coladeiras" that were popular in this era (the early 60s), and what was considered a more old-fashioned style - morna - with which she became world famous.
No details remain of the exact dates of the recordings, and the musicians on the songs remain largely anonymous (only scant contemporaneous details were kept), but the instrumental template is familiar enough - simple light percussion, guitar (usually acoustic) and Evora's rich, assured vocal the main elements in these twenty-two short, timeless numbers (about half of which were written by the legendary Ti Goy).
Terezinha is the highlight, it was Cesaria's first big hit, an uptempo Latino dance number with a catchy mambo rhythm, light electric guitar and a beguiling, playful chatty vocal from Cize. Other tracks are more redolent of the singer's later shifting midtempo music, as well as the more downbeat, sodade-sodden stuff that have become such an indelible part of the musical landscape.
It's all delivered in a nicely packaged CD (with early pictures of an an unmistakeable cherubic Cesaria, young, pretty and relaxed) and with enough musical heft and variety to appeal to fans of the singer's later work. A successful recording career soon followed these radio performances, and it's not difficult to see why when you hear this charming folk-rooted music and the friendly, soulful tone with which it is being delivered.

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