Music critics say that Branco “lives fado and breathes with fado” – a form of traditional Portuguese folk music often associated with melancholic melodies and mournful singing.
Branco weaves together the traditional music with the lyrics and poetry of her compatriots, such as “Queen of Fado” Amália Rodrigues, who performed internationally and helped to popularize fado in the 20th century.
In recent years, Branco has turned to more contemporary tones in Portuguese music, releasing her albums, “Menina” in 2016 and “Branco” in 2018.
She also released a book on the alkaline diet, called “RoadCook.”
In an exclusive interview, she responded to questions from Hürriyet Daily News:
We are very happy to have you here in Turkey once again. What is it that you like the most about Istanbul and Turkish audiences?
Cristina Branco: I am passionate for Istanbul and the confluence of cultures; it is so rich and powerful! Then, the Bosphorus and the way an entire city unfolds at its feet and finally, the mysterious and transcendental poetry within the dervish dances.
How did you fall in love with fado? How was that very first crush?
Cristina Branco: When my grandfather offered me a LP of Amalia Rodrigues called “Rara e Inedita.” In that album, she was not singing fado or its tradition, but I got curious with her voice and the power in it. She really got my attention, and after that, I was obsessed and bought everything of hers, and that was how fado got into me. Always and still today, it is Amalia who really gives me the chills. After her, when I look for it, it is to learn with this or that old singer, but Amalia was unique!
You are interpreting fado in a much more contemporary and unique way. Fado evokes and reflects feelings like longing and grief in many people, but you aim to change this perception and show the lively sides of it. How were the reactions to your new approach when you first started to sing fado? And how is the reaction of the audience, fado lovers or music authorities to your sound now?
Cristina Branco: When I started, it was strange for some, especially the purists, but there was always respect, and with time, I have the feeling that I’m like an adopted child of the genre. People got used to that different sound, different approach I have always presented, so, the reaction to these last two albums has been awesome!
You have been pursuing a musical career over 20 years. How do you evaluate your musical development? Is there any difference regarding your sound?
Cristina Branco: Of course, there is an evolution, otherwise it wouldn’t be interesting. People would not follow my work if they didn’t feel that path, that search and curiosity for more. I am a singer, a mother and a conscientious human being facing a turbulent world; all that influences my sound and my interpretation. We are not isolated. I want to learn from what I see, what I experience. I’m here to become a better being, otherwise what would this be all about? If life tells me that my voice is my instrument, then I use it as a tool for my path and for the energy it creates towards all those who surround me and come to me.
As for your latest recordings – “Menina” and “Branco,” how do you define and explain the style and sound of these two albums?
Cristina Branco: Briefly, they are like the 4.0 of what I was doing till then. With them, I found out other and younger authors, a different approach to music, more relaxed, closer to reality, to a normality, a new normal. Everything became new in me although it was already there; I was just not exploring it, and these people opened my eyes and my ears.
What do you think about the new digital platforms to reach the audience?
Cristina Branco: Those are the best ways to get to the heart of people today. Nowadays, it is about phenomena of popularity that last very short and irrupt exclusively there, in the web, and survive there. It is easier to become popular, depending on how awkward, how different you are. The audience, as I said, needs constant stimulation. It’s a challenge to those who make music but still want to surf the wave. Once you’ve created something and tossed it into the world, it’s impossible to know how far the ripples will undulate; this is how I feel about it.
You wrote a book named “RoadCook.” It is an alkaline cookbook. How did you get acquainted with the alkaline diet?
Cristina Branco: My necessity for healthy food after years of bad experiences and regular problems with allergies and vocal diseases. It was my doctor, actually, who put the light on the spot. She said that water has to be alkaline to protect your over-exposed vocal cords. From water, it was easy to add … more … and realize that food also has a pH schedule, and every single product is positioned from acidic to alkaline in a long scale.
Do you have any messages for your Turkish audience? Would you, please, give us more insight about your Istanbul concert? How would be your repertoire?
Cristina Branco: My message is simple and clear in my mind because I want for your children’s future the same that I wish for mine, because the future belongs to them. We live in a painful historical moment in which we see freedom in the world attacked on all fronts. My music celebrates freedom at a time when so many countries around the world regress to medieval legislative codes and violence as in all the front pages of the newspapers.
It’s not a coincidence that my album is called “Branco” (“White”), the sum of all the colors, to promote equality and diversity, the fall of every wall. My music is about union and love, so, please, be welcome in this celebrating moment where we will refer to basic values such as truth, culture, science and humanism. We will have fun telling a lot of stories about us, about people; it can be one of us or you. I want you to understand that we’re not that different, and the basic instincts are pretty much the same. We will use other instruments and a few unexpected surprises to relate to your emotions. Music is centered in my last two albums, “Menina” and “Branco.”
What about your future projects?
Cristina Branco: I’m writing another book. And a new album is coming next year!