Céu: Music that speaks to the heart

Céu: Music that speaks to the heart

Back in Chicago with a new album, Brazilian songbird Céu took the stage at the Green Dolphin in April with a set list of songs from her latest, Vagarosa, as well as some old favorites, including a cover of Ray Charles’ Takes Two to Tango.

Bridging reggae, bossa nova, electronica and jazz, Céu produces a cool eclectic sound that is complemented by her sultry voice. She debuted in the U.S. in 2007 with her self-titled album, which earned her a Grammy nomination, and shows no signs of stopping. In addition to her new album, Céu is one of the featured artists on Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project, a collaborative focused on uniting cultures through music.

Céu took time from her international tour to talk to Proyecto Latina.

Q: Your latest album, Vagarosa, has been doing very well. It reached #1 on the World Music Charts in Europe and made the Best International Releases list in 2009 by the Chicago Reader. What would you say is different about this album in comparison with your first?

A: I think this album sounds more “organic” than the first one, since we almost didn’t use electronic resources such as beats, textures and noises. I was strongly influenced by albums that had a strong pulse, but without much effort, like Transa, by Caetano Veloso, Luis Melodia’s Perola Negra or Serge Gainsbourg’s Melody Nelson. I was also listening to a lot of Jamaican recordings from the 60s. My first album has a lot of the specific characteristics of this time. You end up showing a lot of your influences and on the second album, you show how you processed these influences.

Q: You have such a unique sound that blends so many different genres. For example, on this latest album, you have a song called Bubuia. Tell me a little about your creative process. What comes first? The lyrics or the melody?

A: It depends. Each song goes through a different process. Sometimes I do the lyrics, sometimes the melody, sometimes I write a verse, and [sometimes] only to find it somehow useful years later. For Bubuia, I had my part of the lyrics and the melody, which I passed to my friends Anelis and Thalma. I knew that they would understand what I was saying in no time. I did a rough recording in GarageBand and forwarded it to both of them and to Gui Amabis, who would produce the track.

Q: Music evokes so many emotions and is interpreted differently. What are some of the things you want your audience to feel and understand when they hear your music?

A: That things don’t need to be understood, they need to be felt. And music has this power. It is capable of taking you to distant periods of your life, when you hear something you used to hear a lot. It is capable of dissolving any prejudice and just speaks the language of the heart. It sounds cheesy, but that’s how I feel and that’s how I wanted people to feel.

Q: People often talk about what influenced them to become musicians. Maybe it was the first time they heard the Beatles or the first time they strummed a guitar. Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to become an artist.

A: This is an inner sensation that I just couldn’t explain. Once, when I was still very young, I noticed that Ibirapuera Park (a major city park) beside my house was unusually empty (something rare for such a popular spot in São Paulo) and I said to my mother: “Mom, look how many people didn’t come today!” I guess she must have thought: We better drive this girl towards the arts!

Q: What can we expect to see from you in the future?

A: A lot of shows, I hope!

We hope so too! Listen to Céu sing Rosa Menina Rosa.

Veronica Vidal has contributed in-depth articles on drug prevention issues for Prevention First, and currently works for a local foundation. She has served in public relations and fundraising positions for several arts organizations, including the Chicago Latino Film Festival, the School of the Art Institute and Shedd Aquarium. She is a strong supporter of the arts with interests in photography, film and graphic-inspired artwork. She resides in Chicago and is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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