Cristina Branco, a name well-known by Fado lovers, met with her fans in İstanbul at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall last month.
The Portuguese artist, who met Fado through an Amalia Rodrigues record given by her grandfather at the age of 18, and whose love for Fado turned into a passion over time, turned to more contemporary tones in recent years. Cristina Branco, who created joyful songs rather than songs emphasizing pain, longing and desperation which are expected from Fado, introduced Menina album in 2016 and Branco album in 2018. We had an enjoyable interview with Cristina Branco who opened new doors to Fado by combining the traditional Portuguese music with the words of the famous poets of her country and of the world.
Was singing your childhood dream? How did your music journey begin?
Yes, somehow it was! Someone at home was always listening to music. My grandfather loved morna because he lived in Cabo Verde for a few years. He said, when mom was a baby, he used to sing her old creole lullabies. There was always music in our house. We would listen to Portuguese musicians like Zeca Afonso, French singers like Brel or Barbara, and even the Beatles. Then my brother started to buy too many albums. I remember singing songs by artists like Paul Simon, Pink Floyd, Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso in front of the mirror for hours, adding new interpretations to the songs. I used to use the garden courtyard at my grandparents’ house as a stage. I would make a microphone out of a broom with a handle and put on a ‘performance’ for hours in my own languages that I made up.
So, how did you fall in love with Fado? How was that first encounter?
It was when my grandfather got Amalia Rodrigues’ LP “Rara e Inédita”. Rodrigues didn’t sing Fado or the traditional songs in that album, but her voice and the power of her voice attracted my curiosity. So much so that I obsessed and bought all of her albums. So this was how I met Fado. Amalia has been the biggest inspiration for me. After that, I have looked back to old artists from time to time to learn new things, but Amalia is unique!
How does it feel to be portrayed as the heir of Amália Rodrigues?
It’s cliche. People feel the need to fill in the gaps, but Amalia’s place will always be hers. I’m just me.
Let’s talk about your latest albums Menina and Branco. How do you describe the style and sound of these two albums?
For these two albums, I can say that this is the 4.0 version of the works I have done so far! And of course, there is much more to do. With these two albums, I discovered different, younger lyricists, which made me approach music differently. A more comfortable, closer to reality, more normal approach… I even discovered a new normal.. Everything was new to me, even though they were already there. Unless I discovered it. These people opened my eyes and ears. My curiosity and interest in authenticity, new and fresh things reached the maximum with these two albums!
What is the best part of being on stage for you?
The purest excitement in the world… It is the moment when I am completely myself to everyone including me. Music comes to my rescue everyday, it is that simple…
Do you remember your first concert, the moment you took the stage? How did you feel?
My memories of this are a little blurry. I once sang at a place where I went as a listener, only at the insistence of a friend. They insisted so much that I got up from my chair and started to sing without thinking. I haven’t shut up since then. I was scared, my feet felt like they were not touching the ground. Before the end of the night, I realized that nothing would ever be the same in my life.
Who are your idols? Who do you like?
Amalia Rodrigues, Billie Holiday, Elis Regina, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Beatles, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, and many more.
What are your other interests?
Cooking and kitchen… I wrote a book about alkaline foods, how to feed on the road, its name is RoadCook… And, of course, I’m interested in literature.
Finally, you came to Turkey many times before. Can you share your impressions about İstanbul, Turkey?
I have a strong passion for İstanbul. As it is the intersection of many cultures, it is very rich and impressive. I am impressed by the mysterious and sublime form of the sema dance and the mystic poetry and the view of the Bosphorus and its coast. Previously, I had a very enjoyable time at Ara Güler’s cafe. I had dinner by the sea, I was lost in the scents of spices and colors of the Spice Bazaar at the Grand Bazaar. I enjoy sitting somewhere and watching people in a daily fuss. There is tremendous energy that comes from your culture, and its effect continues even today.