Maria do Céu, better known these days as Céu, is gradually preparing her place at MPB's top table thanks to the beguiling mixture of her delicate voice, rich, varied rhythms and feminine charms all beautifully presented on 2012 LP Caravana Sereia Bloom.
Having paid her dues as a waitress in New York, the São Paulo native was taken under the wing of friend and producer Beto Villares in 2005 and has never looked back, elegantly combining elements of jazz, samba, afrobeat and R&B and earning a Latin Grammy nomination in the process. Recognised now on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the modern voices of Brazil, Time Out Rio caught up with her for a quick chat.
What were the inspirations behind the last album?
On my last record it was brega music (an offshoot of modern pop popular in the north of Brazil), with that image of truckstops on the highways in the northeast. I'm really interested in the mixing of Brazilian and Latin American styles, which added a touch of lambada and cumbria (to the sound).
What's with the name of the record?
It was a little joke, a mixture of concepts that were part of the album's creation. Caravana, because the record is about my band that i've toured the world with for the last six years, and Sereia (dedicated to my three year-old daughter Rosa) and Bloom Street are my favourite tracks off the album.
Which singers have inspired you?
The legends of music like Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Marley and the jazz heroines Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. And our classics, like Marisa Monte, Jorge Ben, Orlando Silva.
What is your relation with Rio?
I love Rio! To be honest it's usually a flying visit and I dont get time to do anything. But I love Copacabana, for me its the best portrait of the city, a mixture of everything, really the embodiment of Rio. When I have time I go to Tracks (record store) in Gávea. After a show we'd go straight to Braseiro where the food is always good and musicians quench their hunger. The juice bars too, mainly because since becoming a mother i'm more a 'daytime' person.
How have you been received overseas?
In Europe and America, by and large, people are intrigued by Brazilian culture, not just Carnival and samba. There is a huge curiosity for contemporary Brazilian music there, as there is in me. I've studied our music a lot and always taken it with me when i've gone abroad since 2005. Now i'm starting to reap the rewards of the interest I planted there.
There have been comparisons between you and Astrud Gilberto, how does that feel?
I get that. Astrud is a great singer and had a huge career overseas and is still in people's thoughts there, so people who only know a few (Brazilian singers) make the comparison. I don't think i'm like anyone else, of course, but I understand the human need to look for comparisons.