Cesaria Evora and Ballaké Sissoko | World music review

Barbican, London

She was barefoot, as always, and wandered on stage wearing a brown dress and cardigan, looking as disinterested as if she were on her way to the shops. Cesaria Evora has always been an anti-star, matching simple stagecraft with exquisite vocal work, and this London comeback – the first since she had a stroke two years ago – showed she remains a powerful, distinctive singer.

Evora, who will be 69 this summer, didn't became an international star until her 50s, when she was hailed as the queen of morna, the emotional, gently melancholic songs of loss and longing for home that are the Cape Verde answer to the blues. Much earlier in her career, singing in local bars, she had specialised in more upbeat coladera dance songs, and it was this style that dominated tonight. In short bursts, on songs such as Zinha from her most recent album, her compelling, sad-edged vocals matched successfully against furious violin, cavaquinho and saxophone work from an impressive (if relentlessly cheerful) eight-piece band.

All that was lacking was variety. The musicians calmed down a little to allow a more soulful treatment of the standard Bésame Mucho, but thoughtful mornas such as Sodade would have sounded better with minimal backing. The audience were ecstatic and clapped along, but Evora wandered off stage looking bemused.

Ballaké Sissoko, the Malian kora player, opened the show with a far more delicate and unexpected set. He may have been eclipsed by the success of his friend Toumani Diabaté, but he is an adventurous virtuoso, as he proved with this collaboration with the classically trained French cellist Vincent Segal, mixing African and western themes in exquisite, trance-like improvisations.

Contributor

Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Cesaria Evora, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

James Griffiths

28, May, 2004 @2:00 AM

Cesaria Evora, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

Robin Denselow

18, Jul, 2002 @10:52 AM

Article image
CD: Cesaria Evora, Voz D'Amor

(BMG France/RCA)

Robin Denselow

30, Jan, 2004 @2:52 AM

CD review | Cesaria Evora: Nha Sentimento

The result is a breezy and easygoing set that lacks the intensity of her finest work, but shows Evora is still in fine voice, says Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

30, Oct, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
World music review: Cesaria Evora

Royal Festival Hall, London
Rating: ***

John Aizlewood

15, Jul, 2001 @11:00 PM

Article image
Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora recovering from heart surgery
The 68-year-old diva is recovering in a Paris hospital after undergoing emergency open-heart surgery on the weekend

Sean Michaels

12, May, 2010 @10:42 AM

Cesaria Evora: Cesaria Evora & ... – review
Evora is the one of the most distinctive, exquisitely sad and soulful singers in the world, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

10, Feb, 2011 @11:19 PM

Article image
CD: Ballaké Sissoko, Tomora

(Indigo)

Robin Denselow

07, Jul, 2005 @11:32 PM

Article image
Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal review – kora and cello fuse with remarkable skill
The west African and French duo brought complexity, delicacy and intuition to improvisations that had the audience yelling their appreciation

Robin Denselow

26, May, 2017 @10:56 AM

World music review: Jayme Stone & Mansa Sissoko, Green Note, London

Green Note, London
Stone combines a jazz musician's sense of timing with a pop musician's brevity and directness, says John L Walters

John L Walters

26, Jan, 2009 @12:01 AM