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Wednesday, Jul 23 2003
As Brazil's electronica scene explodes, numerous female singers are being posited as the voice of a new rhythm nation. A select few, like Bebel Gilberto, distinguish themselves with cosmopolitan styles that draw from the country's spontaneous musical traditions and subvert dance music's strictures. Twenty-one-year-old São Paulo singer/songwriter Cibelle has similarly set herself apart. On her self-titled debut, she confidently croons her way through a mélange of downtempo, samba, jazz, and bossa flavors with enough genuine lyrical emotion to keep it all from coming off as simply showy.

As the beats -- courtesy of her producer, Apollo 9 -- roll and grind behind her, Cibelle purrs her existential lyrics (in English, Portuguese, or both on a couple of tunes) in the languid sensual tradition of the modern Brazilian pop chanteuse. It takes a natural warmth and vulnerability to make people shimmy to lyrics like "I hate you so bad when I love you," as she does on the bright bossa of "Hate"; and lines like "I'll be your world/ Your water your earth/ Your lover your birth," from the reggae-soul ballad "I'll Be," require Cibelle's effortless caress to avoid seeming tragically obsessive. Like the singer's '60s-era Brazilian foremothers Rita Lee's and Elis Regina's, Cibelle's alluring voice catches you up into her surprisingly complex lyrical world.

Cibelle forged her diverse writing style while recording with the late, gifted Yugoslavian/Brazilian producer Suba. In Apollo 9, she's found an equally talented fellow countryman to man the boards, and the album's 11 tracks ring with the duo's nuanced chemistry. He seems to adore buoying her voice with a vibraphone line, a murmuring guitar, or even the sound of a cash register. Like few albums so far that have broken into the global spotlight, Cibelle announces the arrival of a new-generation Brazilian vocalist equipped with both songwriting chops and a seductive vocal empathy.

About The Author

Ron Nachmann


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