Mindelo, Cape Verde. December 17, 2011, turned out to be the last day of Cesária Évora's life, and this departure has taken something away from my soul, leaving a painful gap that will never be filled.
If there were women in my life whose life inspired me, she was one of them. Her voice, as tranquil and charming, as waters of Cape Veridan lagoons; her unmatchable, recitative manner of singing will never be heard live again. Her slow barefoot moves on the stages will never be seen live again either. Cesária Évora's songs became part of my life back in Miami, over ten years ago. I am not even sure which of my Russian friends introduced me to her music, but since then I have felt obliged to convert everyone I liked to her fan.
Driving down Florida highways, surfing the Ocean side Collins Avenue, I would always play Petite pays (Click here for a video), Sodade and many other of her instantly timeless masterpieces, repeating the lyrics in her native cabo verdiano. Cásaria’s music pieces were affecting and determining my mood, my feelings and state of my mind. For some reason, however, she never performed in South Florida when I was there. As I learned later, one of the reasons why it was worth moving to Russia for me, was a chance to see her, which in fact I did twice, both times in St Petersburg.
Оn that last day of March in 2008, I just returned from Latvia, bought a ticket and went to her concert in Oktyabrsky Concert Hall. She showed a lot of her major hits. At some point she took a break — sat on a chair and lit a cigarette, right on the stage when the band went on playing. After the concert, while waiting for her to come out from the back exit, I started a conversation with her musicians. They were somewhere from the Caribbean, I think. The talk was so exciting that I missed the moment Cesária was exiting from the building. She passed by one meter from me, I wanted to say something important, something profound to her but nothing came to my mind. and words would be too trivial here anyway. Flowers would suit the situation better, but — how stupid it was of me — there were no flowers. She got into her limo and left.
I don’t know what it was about the end of March that was making Cesária to come to Russia, but on March 30, 2009, she performed in Oktyabrsky again. This time I did not have a chance to buy a ticket but did buy a bouquet of red roses. Diligently awaiting at the same back exit, I even ran into Stas Svetochеnkov, а remarkable artist whom I had been very close with but who at some point began to avoid me: His house in the Grechesky prospekt, a house where Dostoyevsky had lived, was next door to the concert hall. I invited him to my prose/poetry soireé coming up in a couple of days, and this was the last time I saw him.
As the concert was over, a small group of people gathered near a big black limo outside. An obnoxious cop was persuading them to leave, claiming that Cesária won’t be signing autographs after all. He was challenged by a homeless old man holding her CD in his hands, really hoping for an autograph. Alas, the cop was proved to be right. The doors opened, and I saw a very tired, virtually exhausted woman who only had enough energy to make it to the car. For a second she looked at all of us, myself included, and I realized that my roses or love confession that I prepared in Portuguese were the last things she needed right now. And so she left. Again. And in two months I left for Thailand.
Today people came to say the last goodbye to her on her native island of São Vicente. Let us join them. Adeus, Cesária. A new existence has begun for you, and you will share it with us again just like you were sharing your life and your music.La na cêu bô ê um estrela. There in the sky, you’re a star, a star that will always shine on us and for us.
P.S. In an odd kafkian twist, December 17 was my son’s, Kirill, birthday. The same day, Kim Jong-il, the North Korean dictator died.
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