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A Conversation with Bebel Gilberto


I spoke with Bebel from her home in Manhattan. More than an interview, this was a friendly conversation with the woman who introduced Brazilian bossa nova to a new generation of listeners. If you never knew, Bebel is the daughter of João Gilberto and Miúcha, the royalty of Brazilian's sensual pop music. Bebel's first album, Tanto Tempo, was an international best seller. Her second self-titled album was released last year. Our conversation took place on the eve of the release of Remixed, dance versions of Bebel's Grammy nominated sophomore album.

SFS: First, I want to say thank you for introducing me to the music of Brazil. I took a chance, went to your first San Francisco concert at Bimbo's in July of 2000 and have been a fan ever since.

Bebel: Oh, that's so sweet, I love coming to San Francisco (Bebel performs at Mountain Winery on June 13th).

SFS: How didRemixed come together?

Bebel: I only approved all the songs. It is like this, when you have a baby and you do not want to let go but you know some day you have to let go. You have to have a baby sitter, somebody else that takes care of your baby. Feeding your baby and putting different clothes so the baby looks different when she comes home. You have to get used to it, this is how I think of Remixed.

SFS: How was it to work with the super sensational Thievery Corporation?

Bebel: Thievery Corporation are very good friends of mine. I have worked with them for ten years. I like the way they improved "Cata Beijo" ("Each Kiss"); a happy baby. My favorite song on Remixed is Nuspirit Helsinki's version of "Winter".

SFS: "Aganjú" is my favorite song -- what's it all about?

Bebel: "Aganjú" is a devotion to the saints for protection, good health, better life. The saints and this whole culture were brought by the Africans when they came to Brazil as slaves. "Aganjú" is everywhere, in San Francisco, in New York. "Aganjú" is magic and protection from Brazil. People get so hypnotized by this song, so maybe that is a good thing, they see the religion in my music.

SFS: I think about "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" when I hear the song "Jabuticaba".

Bebel: Very good pronunciation! (Laughs) No it's not like that -- the song is about a Jabuticaba fruit tree is in my grandmother's backyard. When I was young, I would sit under the tree and be happy. The tree is quite unusual. The fruit grows on the trunk of the tree, not on the limbs, it is a beautiful, beautiful tree which I think only grows in Brazil. The fruit is like a grape but not, it is purple outside and white inside. They are sweet and delicious. The song is for this beautiful tree and my memory of my youth.

SFS: What's the band like this time round, now that Remixed came out?

Bebel: The concert will have nothing to do with Remixed. The show will be a more laid back thing, two acoustic guitars, a little bass, percussion, and vibraphone. Mauro Refosco is great, he plays all the percussions and the vibes. The show is going to be perfect.

SFS: Are any new songs part of the line up of songs or any plans for a new album this year?

Bebel: I am writing little by little, slowly creating new songs, practicing every day with my musicians and having a good time.

Thanks to the staff at Six Degrees Records and Bebel's management who arranged my interview.

Bebel Gilberto performs Monday, June 13th at Mountain Winery in scenic Saratoga, a mellow one hour drive south from San Fransisco.