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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Songs of Yearning, Sadness From Evora

November 08, 1994|DON SNOWDEN

"Rendez-vous in L.A.," an international food fest and concert that attracted about 1,000 people Sunday to Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hanger, was a bold and successful attempt to redefine world music along broader lines by featuring artists with styles built on American street beats (Spearhead and Solsonics) alongside African artists Manu Dibango and Cesaria Evora.

The Los Angeles debut of Evora, a native of the Cape Verde Islands now based in Paris, showed that her style is far removed from the rhythmic emphasis usually associated with world music.

Dubbed the "barefoot diva" for always performing (as she did Sunday) without shoes, Evora simply sings in Portuguese a gentle, sophisticated but highly emotional style known as morna . And that's it--no glamour, no stage moves, no rhythms to even clap along to, no spectacular vocal pyrotechnics to wow the audience.

Backed by piano, acoustic guitar and the four-stringed, mandolin-like cavaquinho , Evora just sings the songs full of yearning and tinged with sadness, her light but husky voice hovering around the notes.

The opening set by Spearhead, featuring ex-Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy frontman Michael Franti, suffered from being the guinea pig for working out the aircraft hanger acoustics.

A potent "People in the Middle" finally broke through the murk and the group's Arrested Development family/tribal style enabled Franti to show a more rounded stage personality, from delivering strong political imagery to some falsetto playfulness.

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