Sensus (US: Decca/Universal Classics France, 2004)
Cristina Branco is one of the young fado singers charting new directions for this traditionally conservative musical style. Her most recent release is case in point. Sensus is an exploration of the senses, especially as related to love and eroticism, seen through the lens of Portuguese-language poetry. A wide range of poets was selected for this project, from the Renaissance era to the present-day (William Shakespeare–in Portuguese translation–is the only non-Lusophone writer featured).
Custódio Castelo, Portuguese guitarist, habitual accompanist and husband of Cristina Branco, is responsible for most of the melodies and arrangements.
Every musical element, from melodies to instrumentation to arrangements is perfectly tailored to Branco’s delicate, but expressive, singing style. Some pieces are interpreted as fado, but an equal number are not. There are elements of jazz, classical and even folk music in many of the pieces. The singing is not dark, tragic, heavy or emotionally overwrought; rather, it is light, clear, luminous and exquisitely controlled. If you like your fado to be drenched in tragic saudade, this bright offering may not be your cup of tea. But if you come to “Sensus” with an open mind, not expecting to find traditional fado, you will be amply rewarded with beguiling poetry and bewitching melodies brought to perfection in the diaphanous voice and nuanced delivery of Cristina Branco.
Sensus, as the name implies, is a delight to the senses and something to be savored again and again.
Author: Marie Jost
Marie Jost received her doctorate in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a flamenco and world music aficionado, a Hong Kong film enthusiast, and an ardent Leslie Cheung fan. Ms. Jost currently resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A.