The Late Blooming of Tulipa Ruiz

With her debut CD, Efêmera, topping Rolling Stone Brasil’s list of the Best Album of 2010, singer Tulipa Ruiz rang the new year in with a bang.

With tours across Brazil and selected cities in Europe and the US, the journalist-turned-singer has developed a love affair with the stage. “I’m much more of a stage artist than a studio artist. I feel more free. The stage is a place of possibility” Tulipa explains via Skype from her modest hometown in the southeast countryside of Brazil.

Efêmera (Ephemeral in English) represents her belief in the deep poetry of the fickle features of our lives, such as a fragile flower or a short screening of a shooting star.

“This year, its all about doing shows for Efêmera, in all possible places” says Tulipa through my echoing MacBook speaker.

The 11-track disc is a c’est la vie celebration of faith and love. The moral of her story is that sometimes the best part arrives after a nice hearty wait; and that’s exactly how it went down for Tulipa.

Raised in a small town of 40,000 to a family of musicians, this tulip was a late bloomer to microphones and choruses. She worked at a record store where the release of a new album was always a weekly event. Influenced by MPB stars such as Ná Ozzetti, and Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell, Tulipa spent most, if not all, of her money on music.

At the age of 22, she moved to the giant sprawl of heat that is São Paulo to study communication, while living with her rocker father, Luiz Chagas.

Like many new artists hailing from Brazil, Tulipa gained a following via social media before booking shows. “The world of the artist is completely different now” explains Tulipa of the importance of leaving your digital footprint on as many glowing screens as possible.

In August 2011, Tulipa performed several shows in Washington DC and Miami, including her NYC debut alongside fellow Brazilian singer, Tiê, where to their surprise, the ex-vocalist of Talking Heads, David Byrne appeared in the crowd.

Tulipa & Tiê with David Byrne (Photo Credit: Jorge Bispo)

“It’s impressive how our music can arrive to the people before us through the internet. A concert is like an exchange between new people.”

With memories of the generation-defining movement known as Tropicalismo that arose in Brazil in the late 60s, many journalists have labeled new artists such as Tulipa, Tiê, Karina Buhr, and Marina Aydar as “the new wave of Brazilian music”. But in reality these new artists have been continuing along in the tradition carved by tropicalismo, which pioneered mixing different types of sounds to create something both new and nostalgic. “Brazilian music is a mix of the music of the world. Its not just a dedication to samba or bossa nova, but of blues music or African music” explains Tulipa.

“Right now there are a lot of artists making great music and this huge offering makes people want to give it a name. But really it’s not new music but music that is going down in Brazil right now.”

An interesting experience for the singer was her European tour where she delivered her craft to people that didn’t speak Portuguese. Luckily Lisboa was one of her stops. “The Portuguese like the way that we Brazilians choose our words. Never have I heard such interesting questions regarding my lyrics than while in Portugal.”

Another artistic facet that Tulipa actively pursues is graphic design, which includes her rendering of the album cover of Efêmera. “I knew a long time ago that this would be the cover of my CD, even without knowing that I would one day have a CD of my own” she admits. “For me, sound and image have always gone in harmony together.”

As you can see on her blog, none of the figures in her designs have any faces. “Maybe I need some therapy. I don’t know, I think it seems more sincere, without any masks, or anything. Sometimes facial expressions can act as a mask that’s in flux. Without adding eyes, nose and a mouth, the viewer is free to invent.”

On September 24th 2011 Tulipa will perform with Nação Zumbi, the lengendary mangue bit group in the Rock in Rio music festival. Other festival headliners include Stevie Wonder, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elton John, Shakira and Rihanna.

Words by Maziar Ghaderi

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