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Emílio Santiago, an excellent interpreter of sambas and other swinging musics, finally found his way to a massive popularity as a romantic singer: the Aquarelas Brasileiras project, coordinated by Roberto Menescal at Som Livre, brought Santiago seven LPs, national and international projection, and the sum of four million copies sold, along with six platinum records, seven gold ones, and the Sharp prize.
As a law school student, Emílio Santiago found it more interesting to profit from the active cultural scene provided by the university students organization to oppose dictatorship — many university festivals supplied the wannabe musicians with plenty of starting opportunities. Encouraged by the acceptance he was enjoying in such performances, he competed in some TV contests, winning third place in a Flávio Cavalcanti one (TV Tupi). Between 1971 and 1975, he became a crooner in several ball orchestras like those of Anselmo Mazzoni's, Maestro Formiga's, and Ed Lincoln's. In 1973, Santiago recorded his first single, continuing to perform in nightclubs. His first LP (Emílio Santiago) came out in 1975. Several albums later, in 1982, he won the Rede Globo Festival with "Pelo Amor de Deus" (Paulo Bebétio/Paulinho Resende). Three years later, in the same festival, he was awarded Best Interpreter with the song "Elis Elis" (Estevan Natolo Jr./Marcelo Simões). Established as a romantic interpreter, he had high popularity in sophisticated productions like Perdido de Amor, a tribute to Dick Farney.