Born of Brazilian musical royalty, singer Bebel Gilberto has carved her own distinct niche with global popularity. While Gilberto stays true to her roots, she staunchly refuses to be pinned down to one genre, much less one continent.
Few artists would quickly disavow the musical genre that gave life to their career, and world-wide recognition to the music of their father. But, in speaking with The Adelaide Review on the phone from Brazil, that is precisely what Gilberto does, in hilariously casual fashion.
“Boring, boring, boring!” says Gilberto when asked what she thinks of the current state of bossa nova music, and her place in the genre. “I don’t want to be stuck with one type of music like that. I don’t want to be the person you hear in an elevator, you know?” laughs Gilberto, who proceeds to mimic the soft, iconic ‘doo, doo’ style of bossa nova.
It’s a surprise to hear her say it. After all, her father, João Gilberto literally invented the genre and her mother is famed Brazilian composer and singer Miúcha. Those smooth, swaying melodies and classic Brazilian percussion often found in bossa nova punctuate much of Gilberto’s music.
Yet, perhaps this isn’t so much a desire to abandon that heritage, but build upon it, melding genres and traditions into her unique and deeply passionate contemporary style.
“I take a lot of influence from my mother and father,” admits Gilberto, “and also my uncle Chico Buarque,” who, incidentally, is musical royalty in Brazil, whose popularity as a singer in the MPB genre (translation, Brazilian Popular Music) has grown meteorically in years past. “But I have a great many influences as well.”
That much is evident from Gilberto’s history of living between Brazil and New York City, collaborations with the likes of Mark Ronson and Mike Patton, and records sung in multiple languages.
Gilberto is excited to return to Australia this season, with performances slated for WOMADelaide, Melbourne’s Elizabeth Murdoch Hall and Sydney’s State Theatre. “I love Australia,” Gilberto effuses. “I absolutely love it. I’ve been there many, many times, more than many other Brazilian musicians, I think. I cannot wait to come back to your beautiful country.”
WOMADelaide, however, will mark her first ever visit to Adelaide. Citing her historian grandfather (father to her uncle Chico Buarque), Gilberto says she is fascinated by history and roots. At the mention of WOMADelaide’s presence in Botanic Park, she waxes lyrical about the symbolic history of the grand roots of trees in the park.
“He was very interested in roots, my grandfather,” Gilberto says. “I cannot wait to see these parks you have. These wonderful huge trees with deep roots. The roots are very important to me, all that history. I’m sure my uncle will be very happy to know that I am visiting Australia and taking in some of your history.”
As for the music, and what audiences should expect at WOMADelaide, Gilberto says her performance will be a deeply passionate one, with a wide variety of her music with a stripped down backing of acoustic guitar and drums.
“It won’t just be music to lie in the grass and listen to romantically,” she says. “There will also be music to kiss your partner to, and dance to. A bit of everything, you know.”
Friday, March 10 to Monday, March 13