Q&A with Bebel Gilberto

Some children live in their parents’ shadows, but not Bebel Gilberto. Daughter of Brazilian music icons João Gilberto and Miúcha, Gilberto recorded her first song when she was only 7 years old and today is renowned for her bossa nova–imbued melodies and soulful stage style. On September 10, she’ll demonstrate her sensual rhythms when she headlines Brazilian Beat at Mizner Park Amphitheatre in Boca Raton. Honoring Brazil’s Independence Day, this free annual showcase features Capoeira dancers, samba drummers, authentic cuisine, and more.

Performers at the annual Brazilian Beat celebration.

Ahead of the happenings, PBI spoke with Gilberto about singing and the perks of being herself.

PBI: Bebel’s a beautiful name. Does it have a special meaning?

Gilberto: It’s a nickname for Isabel. I was the only Isabel in my family, then some young cousins decided to imitate me. Perhaps my parents were inspired by Princess Isabel who freed the slaves in Brazil. She is a hero.

Tell us about your upcoming performance at Brazilian Beat. What can audiences expect to see and hear?

I’m doing a free-style version of my show with lots of songs since the release of “Tanto Tempo” and also songs from my latest album, Tudo.

Any favorite spots in South Florida you’re planning to visit?

Over the years, I have come back and stayed at wonderful hotels, mainly in Miami and Miami Beach. I remember the beautiful theaters, great memories. I am looking forward to seeing Boca Raton.

How did it feel to receive a Grammy nomination for your song Tudo?

That was a good feeling. Unfortunately, I did not win but I felt like I won. I wonder what it feels like to win. Maybe when I am 70 I will win. I have seven nominations, isn’t that great?

What are your favorite songs to sing in the car or shower?

It changes. I love Brazilian singer Mart’nália. She is in New York and I am writing a song with her. Usually I sing old songs. Lately, I am singing “Rapte-me Camaleoa” by Caetano Veloso. He was just here at my apartment and I told him how much I love that song.

What trait is quintessentially you?

A sense of humor. I am very natural about being myself. I am always on the subway or [at] the bakery just like anyone else. I am humble and it helps. Some people think I am crazy, but I am just funny. I don’t take myself too seriously.

What’s your earliest memory of singing?

I did an audition for a voice over when I was very little. I could not read yet, so I memorized the words and melody. I was probably four or five years old. I was born here in the U.S., lived in Mexico, then Brazil, so I had all the languages mixed up in my head. I learned how to read and write in each language later on.

What are your favorite songs to perform?

“Samba da Benção” by Vinicus de Moraes, always, and “So Nice (Summer Samba)” by Marcos Valle. I also love my new tunes. I am doing a version of “Creep” by Radiohead and also “Undiú” by my father, which I am thinking of recording.

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Describe your greatest professional achievement.

To keep it up all these years, keeping it together.

Where do you go for inspiration?

It comes at any time, but not all the time. Usually for me it’s a walk on the beach. It’s impossible for me not to think of something when I am walking on the beach.

Any anecdotes of growing up with two very talented parents?

I remember music all the time and lots of laughs. Both my parents have an incredible sense of humor. They are both successful artists, they believe in family, but then it gets a little complicated. It was not easy. But I am always the little girl, the daughter, even at 50 years old.

Don’t miss Bebel’s performance at the Brazilian Beat celebration on September 10.

Your greatest indulgence.

Being comfortable. Traveling, good hotels, eating well, massages, acupuncture. I love all that, also meditation. Taking time to take care of myself is my indulgence.

Best part of being Bebel Gilberto.

Having a sense of humor. I am very natural about being myself. I make an effort to be normal. I am always on the subway or the bakery just like anyone else. I am humble and that helps. Some people think I am crazy, but I am just funny. I don’t take myself too seriously.

How you would sum yourself up.

Hard worker, extremely independent, very loyal, and very romantic.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I am putting some songs together with different people, like Mart’nalia that I told you about. I was inspired during some recent travels. Nothing I can talk about now but perhaps in the fall.

Share something about yourself we probably don’t know, but should.

I am very short.

You’re greatest non-musical talent.

I cook very well.

Advice for musical hopeful.

Keep it together. I am the queen of distraction, so it’s important to stay on track. It’s not easy but you have to commit 100-percent.

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