The first time I ever heard Cesaria Evora's voice was in an American shopping mall. Everything around me was loud, busy, hectic. Suddenly a voice comes out of the loudspeaker that just sounded so magic and gentle. It was Cesaria’s hit Voz D'Amor. The voice of love.
And what a voice it was. Smooth, gentle, soothing. Even if I didn’t understand a word I immediately bought the CD.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself in Hamburg, Germany, where Cesaria, our WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, would be performing at an open air concert. Never having met her in person I of course wanted to bring a gift.
So what does one give this amazing woman? Call to the assistant. "Hmm.. Maybe cigarillos," she suggests. Okay, unusual, but..okay, done. But that's not enough. Maybe sweets? "Sure, she will enjoy sweets".
Then, as usual, I went slightly overboard. I knocked at the door of the dressing room door at her concert hall, carrying a tray loaded which German cakes, tarts, pies.
And Madama Evora just started laughing out loud when I said: “Hello, I’m Bettina from the World Food Program... and I am bringing food… I thought you might be hungry”.
She was just wonderful in person...so humble, so graceful, so generous. She immediately thought I should tell the audience about WFP's work and ask them for donations.
And then she went out on stage and wrapped those people sitting on an outdoor forum into her music. Cesaria mostly performed barefoot -- as a tribute to the poor children in her homeland. After a while she pulled up a chair to sit down, cigarillo in hand. And kept on singing.
Cesaria lent WFP her voice so we could help children going hungry in Cape Verde, her home island.. still struggling with child malnutrition. Cesaria donated a song to these children..and to WFP..Mar de Canal
She had grown up poor, she knew firsthand what it was being hungry. But she was a survivor, a fighter...and she know that kids like she once had been, needed a helping hand. Cape Verde no longer needs WFP’s help with school meals, the government is doing it now. Cesaria helped make that happen.
So we mourn her now. We are grateful that we could listen to her songs, in person, that she always helped us help others She passed away back home in her beloved Cape Verde. All too soon, she wanted to keep on singing, she hated that she had to retire.
I never thought she was a barefoot “diva”.. not in the sense that term is often used. Maybe we should call her the barefoot humble diva.