Ten months of working and spending time in America was all it took for the Moscow-born, Australia-based, half-Dominican electro-soul singer Fantine to perform in front of Michelle Obama.
"The First Lady was at an event in Miami Gardens, and what happened was, a few days prior, I was singing the national anthem at a Miami Dolphins game," she tells Crossfade.
"The organizers of her event were at the game and were like, 'Hey, you should come sing the national anthem for her.' It was surreal, but it happened."
Perhaps what's most surreal is the "Star Spangled Banner" is one of only four national anthems that Fantine can recite on command. The others include Russia's, Australia's, and the Dominican Republic's. "But maybe," she laughs, "I'll get a chance to learn a few more."
Attending college in Perth, Australia, Fantine claims to have come to music late before joining a local bar band.
"I did it part time on the weekends. It was a fun thing for me to do as I was studying," she recalls. "But I realized I was a lot better at music than at law or accounting."
After spending the last few years recording and releasing music in Australia, her mother set up a meeting for her with a Miami legend, Emilio Estefan.
The only problem was she had only three days notice to get from Australia to Miami.
"It was a really long flight!" Fantine laughs, remembering her first trip to the Magic City.
"Emilio immediately started showing me all this different music. Maybe like this? Maybe like that? He tried to get a feel for what kind of music I liked."
She told him that her tastes ranged from soul like Sade to jazz and alternative. This was apparently the right answer, and Fantine has since returned to Miami many times, where she's found herself impressed and influenced by "the Latin fusion that permeates the city. It is not something I was exposed to living in Australia."
The pair quickly got to work on an album, I Am Fantine, due to be released early next year. And though Fantine wrote many of the songs on the record, her producer persuaded his better half, Gloria, to write a song for the album as well.
You will be able to hear them all when she performs this Saturday night as part of the University of Miami's Festival Miami at Gusman Concert Hall in front of what Fantine promises to be "a full band with a standard rhythm section, guitars, backup vocalists, horns, violin. It's going to be a proper concert. "
As far as what languages she will be singing in?
"It's going to be bilingual, Spanish and English, unless I make some last-minute changes and add some French to it, which may or may not happen."
Perhaps she is waiting to see which heads of state might be in attendance.
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Fantine. Presented by Emilio Estefan. As part of Festival Miami. Saturday, November 1. Gusman Concert Hall, 1314 Miller Dr., Coral Gables. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $25 to $45 plus fees via festivalmiami.com. Call 305-284-2241 or visit miami.edu.
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