by: Césaria Évora

Three years after her Grammy-winning Voz d'Amor, Cape Verdean superstar Césaria Évora returned with her tenth album, Rogamar. Recorded in Mindelo, São Vicente, Évora's hometown, and Paris (Caetano Veloso arranger Jacques Morelenbaum added the strings in Rio de Janeiro), Rogamar is a lovely piece of work, with most of the 15 tracks written for her by her talented Cape Verdean songwriting team. The songs, as evidenced by the title of the album (which translates to "pray to the sea"), speak of love, loss, island life, and humankind within the context of the ocean. Water is the recurrent theme; it is present constantly, and is something to which life can be compared: it takes and it brings, it is love and it is separation, it is a friend and it is death. Adding to this is Évora's voice, which constantly alludes to the sea, and can be quick and choppy, or long and smooth, but mostly is clear and fluid and is what controls the album and gives it life. Yes, the instrumentation is wonderful and contributes greatly to the songs (although sometimes Morelenbaum's strings are a little too much, nearly overpowering the rest of the band), accenting the sadness or longing, the celebration, the desire, but it is Évora who decides what and how the songs are really supposed to be. She is willing to create seeming incongruity (like in the up-tempo "Um Pincelada," in which the singer explains her understanding of the world and a lifetime of disappointments, with resignation thick in her voice), to hope for "peace and progress" in "Africa Nossa" (which features Senegalese folksinger Ismaël Lô), or to slyly offer friendship to a woman who trusts no one, in "Rosie." Outside factors contribute, but Évora is the real decision-maker. She has each song mean exactly what she wants it to mean, and listeners are all the better for it, anyway, because at least then they can try to comprehend, just a little bit, the life of this remarkable singer. ~ Marisa Brown

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