On her sophomore project, Vagarosa, the Brazilian singer-songwriter continues to embrace music from far and wide.
If you've set foot in a Starbucks lately, chances are you've caught a few bars of Ceu's music. The Brazilian singer-songwriter's self-titled debut album was picked by the coffee chain to be the first release from an international artist featured in its Hear Music Debut CD series.
Critics showered praise, the disc rose to the top of Billboard's world music chart and Ceu (pronounced say-u) scored a Latin Grammy nomination for best new artist of 2006 and a Grammy nomination for best contemporary world music album of 2007.
Ceu's creamy vocals and camera-friendly looks helped make her the rare foreign chanteuse who can break through the English-language barrier that often blocks world music artists from the U.S. market (she sings almost exclusively in Portuguese). With her much-anticipated follow-up, Vagarosa, to promote, she's back on tour and has a return engagement Friday at the Roxy.
But on both her first recording and her new album, the Sao Paulo native demonstrates that she's a serious artist who's not making music simply to serve as a pleasant aural backdrop for coffee klatching.
Speaking in English by phone from her Sao Paulo studio, the 29-year-old singer born Maria do Ceu Whitaker Poas said that she didn't plan for her new record either to meet or sidestep the expectations born of her previous success.
What I wanted to do is be honest with myself, doing what I really feel I should sing," she said. Because when you do this music, you're going to be with this music for a long time."
Fluent in the rhythms and emotional palette of bossa nova and samba, a sort of birthright for Brazilian musicians, Ceu cultivates a cosmopolitan interest in electronica, Brazilian northeastern regional music, reggae and Ethio jazz. She absorbed American blues, jazz and hip-hop while living in New York in 1998, and also developed a taste for neo-soul artists such as Erykah Badu.