Bebel Gilberto

Border Crossing

Music Features Bebel Gilberto
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"World Music” is an amorphous term that gets thrown around far too often.

But Bebel Gilberto’s third solo album, Momento, is World Music in the truest sense. Not only was it recorded on three continents (in New York, London and Rio de Janeiro), it manages to seamlessly integrate sounds from each one—from Brazilian bossa nova and samba to European dance and electronica to American jazz and folk.

Gilberto’s father, João, is considered one of the founding fathers of bossa nova. But she says her music didn’t truly take shape until she left her home country. “I don’t know if I could achieve the style I wanted if I wasn’t living in the U.S.,” says Gilberto, who now considers New York her home. “When I moved away, I found my own style; my own way of playing Brazilian music.”

Gilberto’s ability to create songs that are perfect for dancing, chilling out or sipping a latte means her music tends to pop up everywhere. Even if you didn’t know it was her, odds are you’ve heard Gilberto at a restaurant, spa or lounge. “I heard one of my songs in a mall recently and thought ‘This sounds so much like me. Wow, it is me,’” she laughs. “It was such an unexpected thing. I used to go to that mall as a girl and now my song is playing there.”

Gilberto says her music becoming so pervasive surprised her, mainly because she sings in both English and Portuguese. “Sometimes I can’t believe people can love my music and not understand what I’m saying,” she says with a chuckle. “But then I think back to when I was young and couldn’t speak English. I’d try to sing along to Donna Summer and I couldn’t get a word right.”

No matter what language listeners speak, Gilberto wants to give them something everyone can understand. “I just hope my music is inspiring and makes people feel sexy.”

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