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Jacintha is a Singaporean jazz singer/torch singer and stage actress who has been well-known in parts of the Asia-Pacific region since the '80s and has been increasing her exposure in North America since the late '90s. Jacintha has never been the type of jazz artist who goes out of her way to be abstract, difficult, or complicated; her work has been quite accessible and easy to absorb, drawing on direct or indirect influences that have included Julie London and Shirley Horn as well as Brazilian star Astrud Gilberto. Jacintha has long been fluent in English, which is widely spoken in Singapore and is one of its four official languages along with Malay, Mandarin Chinese (as opposed to Cantonese Chinese), and Tamil.
Jacintha was born Jacintha Abisheganaden in Singapore on October 3, 1957. Both of her parents were musicians who encouraged her interest in the arts; her Chinese mother was a singer/pianist, and her Sri Lankan father, Alexander Abisheganaden, was a guitarist who was into both classical guitar and jazz guitar. Growing up in Singapore, Jacintha listened to a wide variety of music — not only vocal jazz and traditional pop, but also artists who ranged from Stevie Wonder to Joni Mitchell to South African star Miriam Makeba. Jacintha was a big fan of Brazilian bandleader Sergio Mendes during her upbringing, and she has been quoted as saying that she was "obsessed" with Barbra Streisand. Early in her career, Jacintha dabbled in techno-pop, but jazz and torch singing ultimately became her primary focus as a recording artist and live performer. In the '70s, Jacintha sang in the Singapore Youth Choir and attended the National University of Singapore (where she earned a degree in English). Jacintha, who lived in the U.S. for a while in the '80s but returned to Singapore, made a name for herself in Singapore in the '80s as both a recording artist and a stage actress, although her early albums (which included Jacintha in 1983, Tropicana in 1987, and Dramarama in 1991) received very little exposure outside of the Asia-Pacific region.
However, her visibility in the United States and Canada started to increase in the late '90s, when she began working with producer Ying Tan and started recording for the Los Angeles-based Groove Note label. Jacintha's first Groove Note release, Here's to Ben: A Vocal Tribute to Ben Webster, was recorded in 1999 — and that album marked the first time that a Jacintha album was widely distributed in North America. Jacintha's relationship with Groove Note continued when she recorded Autumn Leaves: The Songs of Johnny Mercer (a live album) in 1999, Lush Life in 2001, Jacintha Is Her Name (which she dedicated to Julie London) in 2003, The Girl from Bossa Nova (a Brazilian-oriented project) in 2004, and Jacintha Goes to Hollywood (which offered jazz interpretations of songs used as movie themes) in 2007. Jacintha turned 50 on October 3, 2007.