Bebel Gilberto on tour in Europe

On tour to promote her third album, Tanto Tempo, the singer and composer enjoys international fame

Felipe Tadeu
DARMSTADT, GERMANY – First, the international press generously praised Bebel’s latest album, Tanto Tempo. Now she is on a world tour to try and establish her name as a new Brazilian Popular Music act. She’s already played 29 shows in Portugal, Germany, England, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Slovakia, Austria, Holland, Czech Republic and Poland – a fantastic route for a newcomer.

AllBrazilianMusic had an exclusive chat with her after a concert at the Centralstation (in Darmstadt), where 700 people checked out the daughter of the mythic João Gilberto. Bossa nova fans were enchanted with Bebel Gilberto’s grace.

Presenting a smart set list based upon her latest album, Tanto Tempo, the singer proved to have matured, in spite of the excessive communication with the audience. Although she could use some stage direction, Bebel seems to be determined to take hold of her space. She has enormous potential to become a star in her own right.

Smartly opening the night with Samba da Benção (Baden Powell/Vinicius de Moraes), beautifully arranged by Brazilian producer Amon Tobin, she immediately won the audience and handled it very well when the microphone failed. Bebel sang pretty songs she has written with different partners – Eu Preciso Dizer Que Te Amo and Mais Feliz – and showed off her stamina in numbers like Bananeira (João Donato/Gilberto Gil) and Maria Fumaça, a classic samba-funk by legendary Banda Black Rio.

AllBrazilianMusic – How’s your tour going?

Bebel Gilberto
– It’s been a very emotional tour, ‘cause I’ve been going places I never had been, before. I mean, I’ve sung in Germany, before, but not in Darmstadt. The concert we’ve played here was the best of the season, so far. It is very important to me, I’m truly happy, because I am learning a lot. The band is tight, we’ve played 16 gigs in the United States, and this is the eighth show we’ve played in Europe. 45 days on the road.

ABM – What’s gonna happen next?

Bebel Gilberto
– I’ll probably be in Brazil to promote the album, but I haven’t scheduled any shows. I will travel to Japan for the same reason. In March, we’ll do a new U.S. tour and a smaller European tour.

ABM – Is it true that (Belgian label) Crammed insisted that you record in Portuguese? Were you planning to make the album in English or Portuguese?

Bebel Gilberto
– Well, they did not insist, nothing was imposed upon me. And what’s great about having worked with them was the freedom that they gave me. They suggested that I sing more in Portuguese, because I was thinking of writing in English, but they encouraged me to record in my native language, especially because European listeners do love the sound of our language. They are less prejudiced than Americans are.

ABM – What about the sales figures for Tanto Tempo in the American market?

Bebel Gilberto
– Much to my surprise, that’s where I have sold more discs. 120 thousand copies.

ABM – And in Europe...

Bebel Gilberto
– About 40 thousand copies.

ABM – Would it be fair to say that you are pursuing an international career as a means to get more attention in Brazil?

Bebel Gilberto
– Not only that, it’s also a matter of time. The album came out in America and in Europe months before coming out in Brazil, so I must privilege those places. See, I’ve been hired by a Belgian label, which means I haven’t made the album for the Brazilian market; it was for the American and European markets.

ABM – One of the highlights of Tanto Tempo is Samba da Benção, by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, with that fascinating arrangement written by Amon Tobin. How did you receive the news of his death?

Bebel Gilberto
– It was hard for everybody, after all, Baden Powell was such an important person in the world of music. I am glad that he could listen to my version and he told me what he thought of it and it was very positive. I feel like at least I said goodbye to him, you know?

ABM – You’ve suffered with the loss of two important people – besides Powell, your producer Suba also passed away. How did you meet Suba, who managed to imprint such beauty in your album?

Bebel Gilberto – I’m grateful that you’ve mentioned him, because Suba was a very, very important person who sketched and built Tanto Tempo with me. I met him through a Brazilian friend and through Béco Dranoff, head of Ziriguiboom, who is the other producer of Tanto Tempo. Suba came up at the right time; he was incredibly talented and a wonderful human being.