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Cesaria Evora 

Voz d'Amor

Wednesday, Nov 12 2003
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Both sweet and sorrowful, the title track on Cesaria Evora's latest album attests to the Cape Verdean singer's recommitment to her roots. The languid tempo of "Voz d'Amor" ("The Voice of Love"), a minor-key ballad, underscores the tune's sad yet hopeful sentiment: "A song, a silence/ A voice that hasn't spoken/ A deep-rooted ache/ In the heart/ A blossoming of pain/ Crystalline tears/ As consolation/ For a lost love." Though somewhat maudlin in translation, the lyrics speak to the essence of morna, the self-consciously poetic song form of Evora's island culture, which echoes Portuguese fado, Argentine tango, and even the American South's Delta blues. But it's the melody that draws in listeners with its melancholic feeling, a pathos that says more about the human experience than mere words can express.

On that track and 13 others very much like it, Evora performs with an unpretentious sincerity -- the antithesis of diva drama. Yet the 63-year-old vocalist, who doesn't mind the media moniker "barefoot diva" (she always appears in concert sans footwear), is the reigning queen of the world-music stage. After a failed bid at hip multiculturalism on her last CD, Sao Vicente, which included collaborations with Bonnie Raitt and Brazil's Caetano Veloso, she now seems content in her role as the matriarch of morna. With a fine acoustic combo on piano, nylon-string guitar, violin, bass, percussion, and occasional saxophone or clarinet, Evora evokes the passion and heartache of homeland solidarity ("Promised Garden," "My Heart Wept") and great love that lives on only in memory ("Stolen Kiss," "The Dove").

At the end of "Voz," she croons, "A song will be born again/ To give us a reason to believe. ... Its cry will fill ... the heart of all the world!" Evora is the singer of this song, her voice the light that rings the darkest rain clouds.

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Sam Prestianni

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