It’s Natural: An Interview with Céu

By | 26 July, 2011

Every now and again an artist comes along with their own identity, their own vision of how something should sound. When Céu released Vagarosa in 2009 it was clear that Céu was one of these artists. It was as much a painting as an album, a vivid picture of a life in Sao Paulo.

With Céu preparing for a mini-European tour we decided the time was right to ask her how she came across her particular ‘sound’, what Vagarosa was actually all about, and also finding out her favourite Brazilian album of all time. Let’s begin…

So, where did your ‘sound’ come from? This mix of different styles that you perfected on Vagarosa?
In Sao Paulo there are so many people from all over Brazil, from the North, the North-east, the South, so I think it’s natural to make this collage, using all these different styles in my music. It would be strange to do just one specific thing as if I was from Recife or from a frevo place or from samba culture. I am not from this, I am from a huge city that has a lot of different languages. I think that’s why the style of music has a lot of different sounds, because it’s natural for me.

And how does your process of making music happen? Do you start with a clear idea in your head and then bring in musicians? Or do you work with the musicians on the ideas themselves?
When I write a song or compose music I pretty much know the whole thing in my mind, which can be strange to to a producer because sometimes I will have a bass line in my mind and start singing it. And then we will try and find out who is the right person to play it, and I am a lucky girl because there are so many great musicians around, including lots of friends, like Pepe Cisneros who is an amazing jazz musician, all the guys from Recife, which have a language that I like a lot. So, every time we start an album I pretty much know the musicians that are going to play with me, for the recording and on the road.

Was there any particular concept behind Vagarosa [Céu’s last album]? In particular, I always think of it as being an album that is set in the night-time.
Well in the night-time here is the part of the day when everything is quiet, so it’s easier to write, and for me, because I’m a mum it’s the time when I have a chance to write. But also, at that time I was becoming a mum and so I was in such a personal transformation, which was such a good time for me to be writing music, with the big belly. And then when my daughter was born I started to record the album in the studio. It was a big challenge and very introspective. I talked a lot about universal love and being quiet and being important to yourself. In this society everything is so fast that we forget to do this I think.

Would you say there’s a theme of water too? It definitely crops up in the lyrics.
“Bubuia” is an expression from the north of Brazil. They say “vou na bubuia” which means flow like the rhythms of the water, like to make your own path. I think the mention of water is definitely a maternity thing too, because pretty much it’s all about water.

You use other slang words too yeah, like “cangote” for instance. Why do you choose to do this?
I like to do this research, even using indigenous words, it just feels natural to me, because these words can be really musical.

When will we get to hear some new music?
I am in the first stage of working on new material. I am working on the seed. It’s too early to say what will happen yet but I think next year I will release something new.

I know it’s a tough question but would you be able to name a favourite Brazilian album?
For me, only one is impossible, so I will not take this that serious. My album would be A Tabua da Esmeralda by Jorge Ben.

And why do you choose that one?
I love Jorge Ben (below is a clip of Céu covering Ben’s “Rosa Menina Rosa”, from the Vagarosa album), especially 60s/70s when he still played acoustic guitar. I think he is a revolutionary of Brazilian music, because he took the roots of samba and mixed it with funk, but in a way that doesn’t sound like samba or funk, it just sounds like Jorge Ben. He has a way of playing the acoustic guitar which is just ridiculous, and also the lyrics, he was in a very spiritual place. It’s psychedelic but also Brazilian.

Anything we should know about your concert in London on Monday? Will it be the same band as last time?
This is different it will be with a guitarist instead of a piano. It will be different, but basically the same band.

And that’s it. Céu will be playing the Jazz Cafe in London on Monday 11th July. You can find more details of that concert here.

And you can follow Céu through her blog here.


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