The Spellbinding and Poetic Sound of Brazil’s Ceu

Hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, Céu (meaning “sky” or “heaven” in Portuguese) is a Brazilian singer-songwriter who had music in  her blood from the start. It was from her father, a composer and musicologist,  that she learned to appreciate Brazil’s classical music composers – Orlando Silva, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and  Ernesto Nazaré in particular.[1] Her songs reveal her many influences, which include samba, valsa, choro, soul, rhythm and blues, afrobeat, hip hop, electrojazz, and of course, reggae music.

In regard to her self-titled 2007 release, Céu herself explained, “I have a passion for Black culture, from jazz  divas to Afro beat. Everything comes from Africa. With Samba, I have a very strong connection to the old  school that we call ‘Samba de raiz’ (Root Samba). I am a vinyl listener, so I tried to bring some of that to the  CD, mixing it with modern things like rap or even ‘Brega’, which is the newest thing in Brazil.”[2] In particular,  she cites as influences the music of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu, as well as the  Brazilian Jorge Ben.[3]

Céu has achieved success internationally in France, Holland, Canada and Italy, and was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2006, 2007, and 2010. In 2008, Céu was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album.

In 2009, Céu released Vagarosa, an amazing follow-up to her self-titled debut. The tracks are so versatile, blending samba, jazz, bossa nova, indie rock and dub reggae in a pleasing and bold mix. My personal favorite, “Cangote” will bring you to a hypnotic state with its heavy dub reggae tune attached, and Céu’s silky voice singing in her beautiful language, Portuguese. The majority of her songs are in Portuguese, though she has several tracks in English which are mainly covers, including Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle” from her first album. I mentioned to my good friend Shomari that Céu covered Bob’s track, and confirming that he already heard it, said to me, “did she ever!”

You don’t have to understand Portuguese to understand Céu and appreciate her music. You will feel the music through the tunes and through that beautiful voice. But if you’re as fortunate as I am to have an amazing and beautiful Brazilian friend, like my girl Leticia, who I run my expanding Portuguese vocabulary by every now and then, you will fall in love with Céu’s music and poetic lyrics over and over again.

I saw Céu perform at the Roxy in Hollywood during the summer of 2009. Her mannerisms and stage presence could make anyone fall in love. The woman is naturally beautiful, she can move, she has been blessed with an amazing talent and most of all, she is REAL. – CJ

Sit back, relax, and enjoy Céu’s seductive sound:

“Cangote”

Next week: Good times at Reggae on the Rocks!


[1] David Dye, “Céu: From Brazil with Love,” World Cafe (National Public Radio), 30 April 2007, on NPR.org.

[2] “Singer Céu brings sexy back to Brazilian music” (Reuter’s report), 20 April 2007.

[3] “It’s Natural: An Interview with Céu”.

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