Born on May 12, 1966, in New York, NY; daughter of João Gilberto and Miúcha (Brazilian musicians). Addresses: Record company--Six Degrees Records, 540 Hampshire St., San Francisco, CA 94110-1417, website: http://www.sixdegreesrecords.com. Website--Bebel Gilberto Official Website: http://www.bebelgilberto.com/.
Brazilian pop vocalist Bebel Gilberto has bossa in her blood, and boasts a family tree that reads like a Who's Who of Brazilian music. She is the daughter of the bossa nova legend João Gilberto and the singer Miúcha. Her maternal uncle, Chico Buarque de Holanda, is one of Brazil's most revered singer-songwriters. Her stepmother, Astrud Gilberto, put the voice to the quintessential bossa nova song The Girl From Ipanema. After years of lurking musically in the shadow of her elders, Bebel Gilberto seduced international audiences with a bilingual blend of bossa nova and electronica, and firmly carved her own name into the musical family tree.
Bebel Gilberto was born on May 12, 1966, in New York City. Quick to carry on the family tradition, she took singing lessons from her mother and was soon performing in children's choirs as well as in the musicals Pirlimpimpim and Saltimbancos. At age nine, reportedly because her father didn't want to appear, she joined Miúcha onstage with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz in a performance at Carnegie Hall, where many in the audience no doubt recognized the young singer from her appearance on her mother's album two years earlier.
In Brazil Gilberto had some early success as a singer, first appearing on the album Um Certo Geraldo Pereira with Pedrinho Rodrigues in 1983. She also composed songs with the Brazilian pop-rock artist Cazuza. Despite her early musical activity, Gilberto did not make her solo debut until the release of Bebel Gilberto in 1986.
"I like to think I was more of a cult success," Gilberto told the Independent years later. "A lot of my songs, such as Preciso Dizer Que Te Amo, were re-recorded by other artists and were hits, so I knew I was a good songwriter." Escaping the weight of her family name, Gilberto left Rio de Janeiro for New York in 1991, where her musical reputation was unknown and her knowledge of the English language was slight. While working as model, babysitter, and waitress, she continued to dedicate time and energy to her music, quickly landing singing gigs at area bars. Her smooth and sultry voice soon caught the ear of established artists like David Byrne, Arto Lindsay, and Thievery Corporation. In 1991 Gilberto joined Lindsay, Gal Costa, Naná Vasconcelos and Laurie Anderson in an homage to the late performer and Brazilian cultural icon Carmen Miranda. Her abilities as a songwriter became known when the song Technova, co-written with Deee-Lite producer Towa Tei, became a global hit. Other collaborations included vocals on 1994 David Byrne and on a 1996 compilation album Red Hot + Rio.
Despite reported on-again-off-again father-daughter disputes, Bebel and João Gilberto appeared on stage together at her father's Carnegie Hall performance in 1998. The younger Gilberto often noted that her father's fans would show up at her performances expecting more of the same bossa nova sound that he pioneered. What they got was usually quite different.
Gilberto released her first international solo album, Tanto Tempo, in 2000. The album, which the Washington Post later referred to as "a pastel-toned, electronica-inflected update of bossa nova," was arranged by Suba (Mitar Subotic, a Serbian producer based in Brazil), who died in 1999. In addition to previously unreleased songs, Tanto Tempo featured covers of classic bossa nova tunes such as Chico Buarque's "Samba e Amor" and "Samba da Bên&etilde;ão" by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes. "It's a quiet triumph, a very modern marriage of classic styles and new technology," read a review for the BBC. "No clattering drum machines here, but rather cunningly arranged samples and collages take you even further into a uniquely relaxed state of mind."
Its success in world music circles made Tanto Tempo the third-best-selling Brazilian album ever in North America. It also brought Gilberto two Latin Grammy nominations in 2001 for Best New Artist and Best Música Popular Brasileira Album. An accompanying album, Tanto Tempo (remixes), was released in 2001. Despite the expatriate singer's notable commercial success internationally (Tanto Tempo sold more than 700,000 copies in the United States, Europe, and Japan from 2000-02), she saw more modest sales in Brazil, where the album sold roughly 40,000 copies over the same period.
If some detractors have dismissed Gilberto's sound as little more than "background music," others have been less than enamored of her stage presence. "To be honest, she tries a little too hard," read a Guardian review of one London concert. "She does a lot of rock-star claps, hands above her head, as if she were in a midwestern stadium. She thrusts her mic towards the crowd, who will cheer between numbers but won't chip in on the chorus."
For the recording of her second international album, she had the help of Marius de Vries, a producer known for his work with high-profile female artists like Bjork, Madonna, and Annie Lennox. Gilberto said her choice of a European producer was a partly a means of avoiding an album that was too "Americanized." Appropriately for a Brazilian who had spent much of her adult life living between New York and the United Kingdom, Gilberto recorded her second "autobiographical" album in four cities: New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador (Bahia). Compositions by Carlinhos Brown, Daniel Jobim, and Pedro Baby notwithstanding, Gilberto made her mark as songwriter on nine of the album's 12 cuts. Bebel Gilberto was released in 2004.
"I think that I kind of grew up inside of myself, in terms of being a songwriter. On the first album, I was pretty open minded; whatever I did, I didn't know how people were going to react," she said in a press release for Six Degrees Records. "The problem is always the second one: You think, 'Oh, God, if they liked that, I don't know if they're going to like this.' So I really tried to repeat the feeling---the magic---of the first album, but I also thought that I had to move to a more grown-up stage."
Audiences used to relaxing with Gilberto's low-key mix of electronica were confronted with a more classic acoustic sound on the second album. One song familiar to Brazilian music fans was the Caetano Veloso song Baby, with English-language lyrics popularized by the psychedelic band Os Mutantes. It also featured a Japanese guitarist and a string ensemble from the United Kingdom.
"Barely rising above the natural pulse of a nylon guitar hammering gently on the fingerboard, the album forgoes all the superfluous studio trickery and anachronisms that occasionally tarnished Tanto Tempo, replacing the quirky electronica with more traditional and tender Brazilian arrangements," wrote a reviewer for Crud.
A North American tour in late 2004 was scheduled, including concerts in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Gilberto has said that she wants to continue singing for the rest of her life, "like [blues singer] Alberta Hunter ... I want to sing until I'm 90 years old!"
by Brett Allan King
Bebel Gilberto's Career
Began singing as a child, appearing in children's choirs and in the professional musicals Pirlimpimpim and Saltimbancos; sang at Carnegie Hall at age nine; sang on album Um Certo Geraldo Pereira with Pedrinho Rodrigues, 1983; released Brazilian solo album Bebel Gilberto, 1986; released international debut album, Tanto Tempo, 2000; followed by Bebel Gilberto, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Tanto Tempo Six Degrees, 2000.
- Tanto Tempo (remixes) Six Degrees, 2001.
- Bebel Gilberto Six Degrees, 2004.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 16, 2001.
- Guardian, July 19, 2004.
- Independent, June 11, 2004.
- Washington Post, June 23, 2004.
- "Bebel Gilberto," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 12, 2004).
- Bebel Official Gilberto Website, http://www.bebelgilberto.com (August 12, 2004).
- CliqueMusic, http://www.cliquemusic.com.br (August 12, 2004).
- Crud Magazine, http://www.2-4-7-music.com (August 13, 2004).
- Público Online, http://jornal.publico.pt (June 4, 2004).
- Six Degrees Records Website, http://www.sixdegreesrecords.com (September 1, 2004).
- "Tanto Tempo," BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/world/reviews/gilberto_tanto.shtml (September 2, 2004).