It wouldn’t be any surprise since her songs are often imbued with these elements, which never fail to sweetly drip like honey into each listener’s ear.
Known for her smooth, dream-like sound that easily transports a listener into the far reaches of the universe, the Grammy-nominated recording artist is one of the hottest names on the Brazilian bossa nova scene.
Born to ‘60s bossa nova legend Joao Gilberto, the internationally-acclaimed singer has more than managed to make a name for herself with the albums, Tanto Tempo (2000), Momento (2007), the self-titled Bebel Gilberto (2004), and All in One (2009). Her songs have been remixed into serene lounge albums and have been featured on the Putumayo World Music compilation albums.
Her trademark electronic bossa nova sound, which blends her sultry voice with infectious Brazilian beats, has overtaken clubs and eased minds around the world. And that sound has positioned her as one of the top-selling Brazilian artists in the U.S. since the '60s.
Currently, Gilberto is performing at City Winery in Manhattan on August 27 and 31. But between rehearsals and other activities, she took some time out to speak with the Queens Ledger – Brooklyn Star newspaper on a recent August day.
As she infected this entertainment editor with her charming accent and breezy cadence, it’s easy to see how seamless her voice and energy translates in the recording studio and on stage.
LF: Bebel, thank you so much for taking the time.
BG: Oh please, thank you … so how are you doing today?
LF: I’m doing great. How are you?
BG: I’m doing great too, it’s a beautiful day, breezy, not that hot, just the way I love it.
LF: I have to say first off, I was introduced to you through the Putumayo World Music Soundtrack: Brazilian Lounge and since then I’ve been a fan.
BG: Aww, that’s so sweet.
LF: So you’re performing at City Winery, you’re in New York. And you know everybody loves New York but why do you love New York?
BG: I think there are many aspects. The energy and everything that happens here, it’s just sometimes I just feel guilty because I really don’t think we appreciate it.
Sometimes we just become new Yorkers, fighting for a living and we forget that we have the best art shows, the best music, the best Broadway shows … everything. It’s so rich here and it’s always renewing and fulfilling.
And every season there is something different, that’s also what I love about New York. I’ve never been in a city where you can feel the seasons and the change of the seasons so dramatically.
LF: Changing dramatically now, I’m going to ask, where do you find inspiration for your songs?
BG: My own experiences beyond anything. And I also get inspired by people and situations and sometimes stories that just touch my heart … for example the song, Port Antonio (on the All in One album) is about a beach in Jamaica and I was recording my last album there. I was just inspired by the views of the sea, we were facing the beach, facing the sea and there was glass all around so you could see everything and I just heard this melody in my head and the lyrics came together. Port Antonio was the name of the place – it came in like that when sometimes it takes days and months to finish a song.
LF: Funny you mentioned one of your songs; I want to ask you about a few others. “Aganju” what’s behind that one?
BG:That’s a whole spiritual story because it’s actually a saint from Yoruba religion that came from Africa. In Aganju’s case it’s a devotion for the saint that is so strong and deep and that was what made everything so incredible. I guess that’s why it touches peoples’ hearts because you know that even if you can’t get the lyrics you know that there is some kind of mantra going on there and that’s what it’s all about.
LF: “August Day Song” – how funny that we’re speaking in August right now. What’s behind that?
BG: August day song was a song I started working on more than 10 years ago and I got to meet with Smoke City at that time and then the song was just born with their inspiration and with their touch – and it was written in August.
LF: This one is on your Momento Album: “Caçada”
BG: “Caçada” ah, yes that song is for my uncle (Chico Buarque) and it was written a long, long time ago and it’s a song that talks really about the hunt but at the same time it sends a message. It’s about a man wanting this woman and he’s using all the ways that you could use as if you were an animal …then I decided to incorporate a little bit that is for her, a rhythm that is very Brazilian and very different also from all the rhythms I had used before, so I loved it. It means “to hunt.”
LF: Which other musicians do you admire right now?
BG: The last three artists that inspired me that I listened to it was the first album by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Just yesterday I was listening to Chet Baker, I love Nina Simone but I also love Brazilian music, Jobim (Antonio Carlos). Today there are many new singers coming in and they are also amazing. There is a singer called Marissa Monte, I think she’s one of the best. There are a lot of interesting artists that have been inspiring me over the years but I always go back to the classics.
LF: All in One, what was behind that album?
BG: I think that All in One it was really, really about love. It really reflected my state of mind at the time, it was a lot of love songs, more mellow and more different and deep and more about being into ballads and less electronically-produced. I think all these aspects made this album came out as a love flower – that’s how I will describe it.
LF: Do you feel like a lot of New Yorkers embrace bossa nova and samba music?
BG: Absolutely. I think it’s something that is unbelievable. People are really into it. And like I was saying at the beginning, New York is so dipped in culture and for me it’s one of my most popular places to play I love playing in New York.
LF: What do you want people to walk away with after they listen to your songs?
BG: Well, I really hope they feel good with themselves, inspired about live, uplifted, and happy about living.
LF: Are you working on anything new right now?
BG: I’m actually working on new songs now. It’s been really interesting and I’m very happy about it. I haven’t started recording, I’m more into the writing now.
LF: What are some of your favorite songs from your albums? Give me three that you felt so connected with.
BG: “August Day Song” is a song that I really connected to because it was one of the first songs I ever started writing. There is also, “Simplesmente” – I love, so, so, so, so love that song, I love singing the song. It’s about being single and it’s a very interesting song. And, Port Antonio, the song I was telling you about before.
Bebel Gilbeto will perform at City Winery on August 27 and August 31. For more information, visit the city winery website.
After her shows at City Winery, Gilberto will head to Brazil and by the end of October, she’ll be back to play and record her new album.