Maria João Monteiro Grancha was born in 1956, in Lisbon. Whilst growing up, Maria never thought about becoming a singer. In her teenage years she used to practice Aikido and she swam a lot in order to get rid of some of the overwhelming energy she possessed. Her passion for sports began at age 17, when she had already been expelled from 5 different schools. Her love for sports gave her a black belt at Aikido and she also becomes a swimming teacher. Aged 27, when she was training to be a lifeguard, she realised that she had the potential to become a professional singer.
When the gymnasium where she worked as a swimming teacher closed, a friend suggested that she attend the Hot Club of Lisbon Jazz School. Maria João knew nothing about jazz but she decided to go to an audition at the Hot Club out of curiosity.
Despite having no musical background, and no knowledge of written music, Maria João's audition was successful and from then on she began to learn how to sing.
In 1983 João learnt to "listen" and progressed rapidly. She sang songs by Billie Holiday, Elis Regina, Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter.
She soon began performing with a band of her own. Her debut was at the opening of a restaurant where she forgot everything she had rehearsed and had toimprovise.
The gig was a huge success, and her career began to take off. She recorded a record with Jorge Palma before going on to work on solo projects.
In 1984 she became the presenter of the Portuguese Television Jazz Show, thanks to which she was given the "Revelation of the Year" award. In 1985 she performed at the Cascais Jazz Festival and to great acclaim.
She then recorded her first albums, Quinteto Maria João e Cem Caminhos, and went on to tour Germany, where one of the concerts was broadcast on radio and television. After winning 1st prize at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival, completing a European tour and receiving "Nova Gente" award for best female artist of the year she recorded her third album, Conversa (1986).
In the same year she was "discovered" by free-jazz pianist Aki Takase who invited her to sing with her. Their musical relationship lasted five years. They toured Europe regularly, often supported by bass player Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen. They released two live albums Looking for Love and Alice, recorded at the festivals of Leverkusen (1987) and Nuremberg (1990). After giving birth to her son, João Carlos, she decided to get involved with different projects and different people.
In 1991 she released the album Sol with the band Cal Viva, featuring renowned musicians such as José Peixoto, Carlos Bica and Mário Laginha. On this album Maria João mixes Jazz with traditional Portuguese music. With the release of the record she toured again with Cal Viva. In 1992 she worked with Lauren Newton and with Christof Lauer, Bobo Stenson and Mário Laginha.
Finally, in 1994 she signed a contract with the prestigious jazz label Verve. In that same year she released another great album, Danças, featuring her loyal and long-time music companion and friend Mário Laginha. This one was produced by German brothers Reinhard and Wolf-Dieter Karwatky (who produced all of Maria João's Verve records). In 1995 she was the guest singer on an album by António Pinho Vargas also featuring saxophonist José Nogueira.
Two years after Danças, she released her second Verve album, Fábula, featuring Ralph Towner, Dino Saluzzi, Manu Katché and Mário Laginha amongst others.
In 1998 Maria João and Mário Laginha released the album Cor, commissioned to mark the commemoration of 500 years since the arrival of Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in India. The album was inspired by and dedicated to the Indic cultures, especially those of India and Mozambique (where Maria João has roots).
The album featured Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu and guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel. The artists involved performed a series of concerts at Expo98 in Lisbon and were again acclaimed by critics and audiences. In November 1999 they released the record Lobos, Raposas e Coiotes, recorded with the Radio-Philharmonic Orchestra of Hanover. This is considered by many to be their best record so far.
2000 saw the release of another album for Maria João. Chorinho Feliz was commissioned to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the "Discovery" of Brazil. The recording features Brazilian singers Gilberto Gil and Lenine and other artists including Helge A. Norbakken, Toninho Ferragutti and Nico Assumpção.
In 2001, Maria João, Mário Laginha, Helge Norbakken and Toninho Ferragutti formed the Mumadji quartet. Mumadji means "Portuguese-European" in Xangana, a language from Mozambique. The group recently released a live album.
(this is a copy from http://mariajoao.oninet.pt/english/bio.html, 2007-10-26)
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