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Cristina Branco

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By rights, Cristina Branco shouldn't sing the urban Portuguese song form called fado. The genre, whose name translates as 'fate,' has its history in Lisbon, a enigmatic, poetic, working-class style about accepting the lot life and love has dealt. But Branco, who grew up in rural Almeirim, Portugal, has established herself as one of the country's foremost fadistas, with a growing international reputation. Born in 1972, she grew up listening to blues, jazz, and music from around the globe. Although she sang for her friends and family, she had no aspirations to make a living from her voice. At 18, she began college, studying social communications, and it was there she experienced her moment of epiphany. One night a friend played her a record by the late Amália Rodrigues, Portugal's greatest fado singer, and she was hooked on the music, with a burning desire to perform it herself. Still, she didn't dive headlong into a musical career. While continuing her studies, she began singing semi-professionally. It wasn't until 1996, at the age of 24, that she recorded her first album, the live Cristina Branco in Holland. It was an unusual move for an artist who was unknown, even in her own country, but it helped establish her, and lay the groundwork for her first studio album. Released internationally in 1999, Murmúrios found her collaborating with acclaimed fado guitarist Custódio Castelo, a partnership that has continued. 2000 saw her issue a special cultural project, Cristina Branca Canta Slauerhoff, with the words of Dutch poet J. Slauerhoff set to music by Castelo, although the record was only released in Europe. It was followed in 2001 by her "real" second album, Post-Scriptum, which saw her further refining the fadista's art of sorrow, pain, and joy.