Cristina Branco is one of the new generation of singers in Portugal who are breathing a new and different life into the musical tradition of “fado.”
Fado (“fate”) is a kind of acoustic blues music. For a time, its melancholy strains and fatalistic lyrics were associated with the regime of Antonio Salazar (1932-74). Amalia Rodrigues, its most famous singer, always wore black. Now, however, young musicians in Portugal have been rediscovering this tradition and infusing it with new sounds, new topics, and a wider ranger of cultural influences. By opening themselves to new topics and influences, the young “fadistas” are revivifying Portuga’s transcultural roots and inspiring a new generation.
Branco is at the forefront of this movement. Her voice is exquisitely clear and full of “saudade” (yearning). Her accompanists are highly skilled and move easily between traditional fado, Brazilian folk music, and jazz. Together, they present works of high literary and musical merit in deeply emotional ways, and it all sounds, hauntingly, as natural as the spray of the sea.
Ms. Branco will be on campus as part of an upcoming symposium on how contemporary Portuguese are looking back on their revolutionary generation of 1974.