Interviews

Céu Found Comfort in the Classics During the Pandemic

Céu finally makes her return to Miami.
Céu finally makes her return to Miami. Photo by Erico Toscano
The pandemic may have felt restrictive to many, but Brazil's Céu (pronounced sEEw) saw it as an opportunity to foment her creativity. The result is her sixth album, Um Gosto de Sol (A Taste of Sun), her first collection of covers. She's set to showcase the album at the North Beach Bandshell on Saturday, July 16, in her first South Florida performance in more than a decade.

"It was something organic that happened during the lockdowns. We were all staying home, and I so listened to a lot of artists that informed me, such as Alcione, Jimi Hendrix, and Rita Lee," Céu tells New Times while en route to a gig in Washington, D.C. "There had always been this idea of doing a cover album. So since we were stuck at home, I felt the need to listen to my idols instead of writing new material. I was connected with this strange moment that we were going through — that is how it happened."

Um Gosto de Sol is a departure for the São Paulo-born singer, whose work normally leans heavily into electronic sounds. Among the tunes is "Chega Mais," a song originally recorded by Brazilian singer Rita Lee in 1979. While Lee's version is a disco anthem in the South American nation, Céu pares it down, placing the acoustic guitar of Sepultura's Andreas Kisser front and center.

Also notable is "Bim Bom," a 1950s bossa nova penned by the late João Gilberto, as well as the title track, composed by legendary singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento.
"I had always wanted to bring the acoustic guitar, which is my favorite instrument, to the front, and with that instrument, you really need to have it surrounded by the right kind of sounds," she explains. "It really has to stand out. Also, I think the pandemic brought a moment of proximity. So Um Gosto de Sol ended up reflecting on this intimacy, without using beats — more looking within."

The songs chosen for this project came from a long list, which was whittled down as she figured out which ones worked best with her voice and the sound she was attempting to find.

"We chose them as we worked out the arrangements with the musicians, especially Andreas, who was the key person because of the fact that we wanted to have the acoustic guitar as the main instrument," she says. 'The ideas he brought in closed the list, but this is something I want to revisit, maybe create a chapter two, or a chapter three."

One can't help but wonder how Kisser, who's best known for his contributions to the Brazilian heavy-metal band Sepultura, became involved with an acoustic project.

Céu says there's more to this guitar virtuoso than one might assume.

"He's a total guitar hero, but he also has classical education on acoustic guitar. He has great talent and is very generous," she tells New Times. "We were able to work well together. It was an incredible experience."

Céu. With Francisco el Hombre. 8 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-453-2897; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $35.
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Ernest Barteldes