In my voyage of discovery on Pandora, my Astor Piazzola radio station played a song by Cristina Bianco which stopped me in my tracks to listen so I started a new radio station for her, realising I had found a fado singer.
I don't think I had ever heard any fado and only knew about it from reading the Rough Guide when we went to Portugal 14 years ago.
"These plaintive chants, usually sung by a woman accompanied by one or two 12-string guitars, apparently have their origins in the obscene songs of the slave trade -- though others trace them back to mediaeval troubadours -- and have only become respectable this (20th) century. The main centre is Lisbon. The Coimbro fado has a distinctively different sound --- slower and more mournful -- while its lyrics are supposed to reflect the town's romantic and intellectual traditions".
"Imagine an Afghani humming along to a Billy Holiday record and you're halfway to grasping the spirit of fado, the weirdest, most melancholic music in Europe. It's thought to have originated, via the Congo, in Alfama, as a sort of working class blues.
Not sure about the Afghani, but melancholic it certainly is. And haunting... I've been playing it all weekend.
I'm not sure Cristina Bianco sings pure traditional fado, but it will do for me. Here is what Pandora provides for a bio:
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. ~ Chris Nickson
I tried to buy her album Ulisses on Amazon UK but they didn't have it. But then I found it on Amazon France, so I have an extra Christmas present coming.
The Cristina Bianco radio station is also teaching me about other fado singers, including Amalia Rodrigues (see above). It's hard to keep it exactly on track, but that's what makes it fun, when it wanders off track. One time I found Sally Dworsky singing the Picture from Start it all Over. Still have to explore that.
Another time I found myself singing along to something I knew from somewhere already, and I found it was a hymn to Che Guevara, on Cantos Revolutiones (of Latin America) by Soledad Bravo. Words of the hymn Hasta siempre Commandante here. Did I ever sing along to it, was I ever such a revolutionary? A rewritten history already, perhaps. O tempora, o mores
But I really recommend Pandora.