Her grandfather had fled the dictatorship of Salazar and she was raised in the village of Almeirim, in the Ribatejo countryside north of Lisbon, away from the traditional Bairro Alto fado houses of the Portuguese capital.
As each and every young Portuguese person of her generation, born during the Pink Revolution, she preferred jazz, blues or bossa nova rather than the traditional fado singing.”My ears were turned toward so many different rhythms and styles,” Cristina said, “that fado made no sense compared with the capabilities of other music.”
She fell in love with fado on her eighteenth birthday, when her grandfather presented her with a record of unpublished songs of Amalia Rodrigues. Suddenly she discovered the passion and emotion within the music and the close ties linking poems, music and voice.
The same applies to a whole new generation of young musicians who in the last decade have contributed to the social and political restoration of the music, adapting it to and blending with new trends. Little by little, this amateur singer who studied psychology and thought about forging a career in journalism, took advanced courses in vocal technique and took up her new vocation.
Cristina Branco’s stage debut in a Dutch club brought immediate success (first in the Netherlands, then in France) and spawned the release of her album Live in Holland in the Netherlands.
In January, 2001, she made her American debut in New York. The art of Cristina Branco is inseparable from that of Custodio Castelo, her husband. He plays the Portuguese guitar and composes most of the fados she sings. His sense of melody, the subtlety of the connections he achieves between words and music and his instinctive understanding of Cristina’s tones are all integral ingredients of the expressive fado.
Fados convey passionate moods with the famous ‘saudade,’ the fatalistic sadness inherited from the country’s maritime past, alternating with subtle, light episodes, to create a unique and haunting atmosphere. One cannot but recognize Cristina Branco’s style within the genre. Guitar, Portuguese guitar and bass guitar blended with a voice, both warm and light, create mesmerizing traditional fados and original pieces. The words are carefully chosen pieces from famous poets (such as Pessoa) and the not-so-famous, so Cristina is on the edge of modern Portuguese culture.
In 2000, she dedicated a whole album to a Dutch poet of the beginning of the 20th century, Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, who had known Portugal, loved it and written about it. Released only in the Netherlands, the album has gone platinum. more
J.J. Slauerhoff (1898-1936)
The life of the ship’s doctor and poet Jan Jacob Slauerhoff satisfies all the criteria for literary stardom. He was restless, adventurous, and intriguing, a tormented loner who suffered poor health and died young – a poète maudit in every way. ‘My poems are my only home,’ wrote Slauerhoff, and despite the romanticism of these words, his life really was a lonely undertaking. A similar non-conformism characterizes his literary work. Slauerhoff’s prose exhibits the same features as his poetry: it is strongly autobiographical, restless and world-weary, and revealing a yearning for the unreachable and for a more passionate age.