Singer, songwriter, electronic musician
Cibelle, observed John Goddard of the Toronto Star, "seems to point the direction of new Brazilian music." Working with a variety of internationally significant DJs and producers, she has grafted innovative electronic soundscapes onto traditional Brazilian popular forms such as samba and bossa nova. In person Cibelle has offered a unique concert experience as she sings, calls on band members to improvise, and leaps from microphone to laptop computer. Commuting between her Brazilian hometown of São Paulo and her new home in London, England, Cibelle was on her way to building an international career with the release of her second album, Shine of Dried Electronic Leaves, in 2006.
Born Cibelle Cavalli Bastos in 1978 in São Paulo, Cibelle (pronounced see-BELL-ee) was musical from the start, and at the age of five demanded guitar lessons. Her mother signed her up at a local music school, where she received lessons on not only guitar but also piano, percussion, and voice. The willowy teenager's talents broadened into acting, and she appeared in promotional spots for the Brazilian MTV cable network, once taking a pie in the face. She appeared in other commercials and was on the roster of the Ford modeling agency in Brazil for a time. In her spare time she wrote poetry.
The flair for fashion that Cibelle acquired during this period showed up in her later work: the cover of her 2003 debut album, Cibelle, showed her with extreme, multicolored eye makeup, flowers covering her bare shoulders, and a bluebird resting on one hand held below her chin. But acting and modeling were secondary interests for Cibelle, who wanted more than anything else to sing. She began to frequent São Paulo nightclubs, sometimes getting on stage to sing, and a musician she met encouraged her to pursue a singing career. But she was unsure of her direction in a musical culture split between the durable local vocal genres of bossa nova and samba and imported pop styles. "I was feeling very, very alone, because everybody I knew was just funk, or just jazz, or just samba, or just bossa, very closed up," she explained to Rick Massimo of the Providence Journal. "And I was freaking out with all this music that I was listening to from all parts of the world…. So many kinds of music, and all that kind of mashing up in my head and my heart, and I was wanting to express them."
The creative turning point for Cibelle came when she encountered Suba (Mitar Subotic), a Serbian-born DJ and producer who applied innovative electronic techniques to Brazilian vocal styles. The two met in a club when Suba lit Cibelle's cigarette. "Later I heard this crazy samba with really cool synth, that was weird and exactly what I was looking for, and it was him," Cibelle recalled (as quoted on the world music web pages of National Geographic). "A friend pulled me onstage to sing. At the end Suba said he'd been looking for a singer and would I come to his home studio the next day?."
The ultimate result of this meeting was that Cibelle sang several tracks on Suba's influential album São Paulo Confessions (2000). She became much more than a vocal adornment to a producer's vision, participating in the creation of several tracks. "Suba would develop the foundation of a piece, and then we would get together and jam at his place," Cibelle told Brazzil magazine. "He had the sound table, everything there, all his computers, filters, and effects in a case that he went around with…. Suba would start mixing textures, filtering, looping, working with the table, and I would hear a sound which felt like it was right in front of me, and another sound at the back of my head, and another sound spinning over my head, and another sound inside my right ear. He made the music come alive."
Before São Paulo Confessions could be released, Suba died tragically in a 1999 apartment fire. But Cibelle had made musical strides of her own while working with him, and she was able to move on with new collaborators. She appeared on a Suba tribute album and contributed vocals to a release by guitarist and vocalist Celso Fonseca, all the while writing material and lining up collaborators for her own debut. She was signed to the Zinguiboom label in Belgium, which had also released the music of Brazilian vocalist Bebel Gilberto, daughter of bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto. Cibelle appeared in 2003.
With nine of its eleven tracks composed or co-composed by Cibelle, the album featured an international set of collaborators ranging from Brazilian producer and DJ Apollo 9 to percussionist and Suba creative partner João Parahyba, French producer David Walters, traditional bossa nova pianist Johnny Alf, and various other musicians. There was a cover of bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Inútil Paisagem" (Useless Landscape), with Alf on piano and Cibelle contributing turntable scratching. Cibelle, wrote Massimo, "lends her silky-smooth purr of a voice to songs that go from hot-weather samba to chilly, brooding electronica, with touches of jazz, funk, and hip-hop thrown in. The beat comes from tight, frenetic computerized patterns or loops of fat, funky drums, with plenty of Brazilian percussion thrown in."
Equally comfortable in Portuguese and English after moving to London and settling in the Shoreditch neighborhood, Cibelle wrote songs in both languages. International touring added a new dimension to Cibelle's music as she boiled her diverse set of sound sources down to the requirements of live performance. She made her first appearances in the United States in July of 2004, and also released the EP About a Girl that same year.
Cibelle's sophomore release, The Shine of Electric Dried Leaves, once again fused the efforts of a variety of collaborators, from Brazilian artist Seu Jorge to France's MC Spleen and American folk singer Devendra Banhart. Cibelle experimented with everyday ambient sounds such as the clattering of spoons while still maintaining links with established Brazilian genres and applying a cool bossa nova sound to gonzo American rocker Tom Waits's "Green Grass." All Music Guide reviewer Jason Birchmeier noted Cibelle's move "away from the broadly appealing samba-lite downbeat of her self-titled debut album and toward abstract soundscapes and poetics." Cibelle was clearly evolving into one of the most innovative and adventurous musicians in the international world music scene.
(As vocalist) Suba, São Paulo Confessions, 2000.
Cibelle, Zinguiboom, 2003.
About a Girl (EP), 2004.
The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves, Zinguiboom, 2006.
For the Record …
Born Cibelle Cavalli Bastos in 1978 in São Paulo, Brazil.
Worked as fashion model, mid-1990s; sang in São Paulo clubs, collaborated with DJ and producer Suba, late 1990s; provided vocals for São Paulo Confessions album by Suba, 2000; released Cibelle, 2003; toured U.S., 2004; released The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves, 2006.
Addresses: Record company—Crammed Discs, 43 rue Général Patton, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Website—Cibelle Official Website: http://www.cibelle.net/.
Boston Globe, May 26, 2006, p. D17.
Chicago Sun-Times, August 5, 2004, p. 44.
Providence Journal, July 22, 2004, p. L14.
Toronto Star, July 29, 2004, p. G4.
"Cibelle," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 1, 2006).
"Cibelle," National Geographic World Music, http://www.worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com (July 1, 2006).
"New World Sonority," Brazzil Magazine, http://www.brazzil.com/content/view/6910/73 (July 1, 2006).
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