Exclusive interview with Bebel Gilberto

The young Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto, whose style fuses bossa nova, samba, and Brazilian jazz, carrying forward the legacy of her father, João Gilberto, is returning to London once again.

With a European tour in full swing, Bebel Gilberto is set to perform twice in early August, beginning with a show at the Koko in Camden and then heading further afield to play the Big Chill in Herefordshire. But amid a busy schedule on the go we managed to catch up with the young singer and pitch her a few questions about where she’s at in her career, what it means to be returning to England, what’s in store next, and her craving for Covent Garden soup! Check out our interview below, and see further below for our cover feature about her from 2007.

JD: How are you doing?
Bebel: Fine thanks – I’m in a beautiful place in south Turkey called Çesme, looking at the Mediterranean sea while answering your questions.

How has your tour in Europe been going so far – where have you felt you’ve been received the warmest? And how exciting is the prospect of returning to England to perform?
I’m doing the second leg of my European tour. As its summer I’ve been very lucky, as I played under the full moon in an outdoor venue last night in Istanbul. I can’t complain about any of the audiences in Europe, but I have to say that I’ve missed playing in the UK and I’m very excited.

You’re back performing once again in London after 3 years. Aside from your shows, how often do you come to London? And what do you like to do when you’re here (shows, plays, restaurants, musicals etc)?
I haven’t been in London since I played last. So first of all I’d love to spend some time in a park, as London has so many beautiful parks and it’s really pleasant to go out during summertime. I also loooove the Covent Garden soup that I can get at any supermarket – I’ve been craving it!

Before entering onto the stage, do you have any ritual. Do you still get butterflys in the stomach, and is this affected by playing outside of Brazil?
I actually get butterflies in my stomach when I play in Brazil. By coincidence I’m bringing some butterflies to enchant the scenario of my stage, so the butterflies are now out of my stomach.

What’s your favourite song on the album All in One, and why?
‘All In One’ is my favorite, because it’s a song that reflects my real state of mind at this moment.

Is your routine pretty hectic or quite settled these days? What’s a day in the life of Bebel Gilberto like?
Pretty hectic still. The only thing that has changed is that I’m married now and been working with my dear husband.

When you’re by yourself at home, who do you like to listen to on the radio, or CDs etc?
I rarely listen to the radio. But I like the fact that sometimes you can be surprised by a song that is not part of your life until that moment. I’ve been listening to this great friend and artist from Brazil called Otto. I love his new album specially a song called ‘6 Minutos’.

And talking of home sickness/missing things… what and whom do you miss when away on tour?
My bed and my home in NYC. Thank god I have a great band and team working with me. And everyone belongs to my heart, so I literally just miss my bed when I’m on tour.

Who or what inspires you?
Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gal Costa – they all have been great influence for my music.

Do have any dreams which you haven’t lived out yet? What might they be?
To own an airplane. A jet maybe – that would make my life much easier.

What projects are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us a little about it/them?
Right now I’m working on a different project here in Turkey, with a Turkish NY-based musician called Ilhan Ersahin, plus Kenny Watts and Ozan and my favorite guitar player Masa Shimizu. We’ve had lots of fun.

I also am about to start a tour in Brazil in October to warm up for the recording of my first DVD, to be out by next year I hope.

Kind thanks. Valeu!
Love, Bebel

Questions by Francilene Oliveira
Photo: Henrique Gendre

Bebel Gilberto @ Koko
Friday 6th August
doors 7pm, £22.50
Koko, 1A Camden High Street – NW1 7JE
Buy tickets at koko.uk.com or call 0844 847 2258

And be sure to check out Bebel’s latest album All In One right here.


Cover story from JungleDrums #44, April 2007

Since we launched our first edition just over four years ago, JungleDrums has had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing Bebel Gilberto merely twice. But like an old friend – the kind that never rings and turns up out of the blue – Jungle turns up in the middle of the chanteuse’s lunch. Sat in a small Thai restaurant close to the hotel she’s staying at in Gloucester Road, the most popular female Brazilian vocalist in Europe and the US is eating a light, healthy meal, complemented by water and green tea. “To recover myself from last night”, she jokes. “But make yourself at home, let’s start talking here”. And with an inviting gesture she makes us feel right at home.

In London to talk to the press about her third solo album, Bebel made us feel so welcome that the conversation started off with a surprise revelation. The singer’s latest work includes a beautiful and powerful rendition of Caçada, which was composed by her uncle Chico Buarque in the `70s. The song had already been covered by Oswaldo Montenegro on a Chico Buarque tribute album; Bebel didn’t know this and was shocked to hear it. “Really? I don’t believe it! That’s crazy”, she confessed.

Despite being slightly reserved, Bebel is excellent company over lunch. She speaks slowly about her career, relationships and the reviews she’s received, both the positive and the negative ones, and she evidently loves talking about her new baby, Momento, which will be launched at the beginning of April on record label V2. “I came up with the idea of recording a new album when I was touring with the last one over here in the UK. I was in the middle of a rehearsal and Masa Schimizu, a Japanese musician who’s played with me since the start of my career, started playing a melody. I heard it and I just thought it was beautiful. I asked him to play it again and we spent four hours recording what ended up being the title track of the new album”.

Listening to Momento, it’s obvious that Bebel took many more risks in a mature way as both a composer and producer – it’s as if she were letting her emotions dictate more than her sense of reason or personality. “That’s right. I wanted to listen to my heart. I was a lot less rational”, she reveals.

Flying the nest…

Daughter of bossa nova God João Gilberto and singer Miúcha (sister of Chico Buarque), Bebel took her first musical steps in the 80s, composing alongside Cazuza and other Brazilian pop stars. In `91 she moved to New York where, almost ten years later, with the help of the producer Suba, a Brazilian-based Yugoslavian, she produced a bossa nova/dance music hybrid that won over critics and public alike, especially in the States and Europe. The album, entitled Tanto Tempo, was released in 2000.

Despite having her own fan-base back home in the country of bossa-nova, Bebel really made waves abroad, establishing herself as a successful artist and the biggest Brazilian female singer outside of Brazil. Bebel is the first to recognize that her career and her energies are focused abroad. “I’ll be honest; I don’t work as much in Brazil as I do in Europe, the States or even Asia. But I think that’s because the priorities of the respective markets are different. Over there (in Brazil), my music is considered foreign, it’s all a bit confused”, she says.

Working alongside renowned producers like Didi Gutman, Marius de Vries, Guy Sigsworth and Kassin, Bebel is looking to consolidate her career in Europe and prove wrong the critics who’ve complained that her shows are luke-warm, with little receptivity on the part of the public. “I don’t know where they got that from. My shows were always great. For God’s sake, I sold out venues like the Apollo Theatre and Somerset House and it was always wonderful”, she says, slightly irritated by the comment.

The British capital is a firm favourite. “All of my albums are linked to London. I love working here, the city helps me concentrate”, she reflects. Proof of this is that despite the fact that Momento was also recorded in New York and Rio, London was chosen for the launch show, due to be opened by Kassin +2 (Moreno and Domenico).

The Kassin Factor

Over the past few years, the Brazilian producer has become one of the most disputed in his field, working with big names like Caetano Veloso and emerging artists such as Vanessa da Mata. A multi-instrumentalist, Kassin is part of the +2 project, in which he forms a trio alongside Domenico and Moreno, who each took turns as lead artists over a series of three albums. They’ll be the opening act for Bebel’s London show. A tip from JungleDrums – get there early.

The group have already performed two small shows in London before, and supported Caetano Veloso during the Tropicália festival organised by the Barbican last year. They took part in the same event as members of the Orquestra Imperial (another project they’re involved with that Jungle will be focusing on in a future edition) and now they’re returning as Kassin +2 to open Bebel Gilberto’s show and launch their own album Futurismo, on record label Luaka Bop. “If you like Bebel then you should like at least 50% of what we’ll be playing”, explained Domenico during a recent chat with Jungle in Rio.

Bebel Gilberto and Kassin +2 have something else in common as well. They’ve both recorded the song Tranqüilo, written by Kassin, and have included the track on their respective albums. “We were invited to perform together at a show, and that was how our wonderful recording of Tranqüilo took place”, Bebel outlines. The performance in London alongside Bebel came as a surprise for Kassin: “Our agent told us that he had a show for us in London and we were really pleased. Then he told us we were opening for Bebel. We’re her friends; Tranqüilo was recorded with the Orquestra Imperial”.

Kassin, who’s already produced remixes of Bebel’s tracks, will present alongside Moreno and Domenico an album full of fresh ideas and surprises. The biggest one of all is the group’s embracing of the roots of bossa nova. “I always made strange experimental music. This time around I wanted to make something clean, melodic and calm”, he concludes. The show at The Roundhouse gives London audiences a chance to check out Bebel Gilberto’s heightened sense of confidence as both singer and composer at a high-point in her career, sharing the stage with a band that represents all that’s audacious and creative in contemporary Brazilian music. Not to be missed.

By Aleksander Aguilar


  1. Ana Cristina Reis

    Great, Fran!!! or Great Fran.

  2. su

    Nice und sweet article about two artists I love and which are an obligatory reference to me in music! thanks a lot.
    cheers from far far brasiland,
    su (singer – ailaika.com)

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