Heavy topics, heavy beats from Brazil’s Céu

Friday, June 19, 2020 - 5:06pm


A long history of racism, an inadequate response to the pandemic and an authoritarian president. Brazilian singer Céu takes it all on in her new album, “APKA!” Céu speaks to The Word’s host Marco Werman from her home in Brazil.


Marco Werman: Private in-person concerts are one way for musicians to deal with lockdown restrictions. Virtual concerts are a lot more common. That's how Brazilian singer Céu is supporting her new album, “APKÁ.”

Her songs touch on Brazil's long history of racism and the country's authoritarian president.

Céu’s online concerts feel especially intimate. She hosts them from her home studio in Sao Paolo. If the camera is pointed just right, you can peek into her studio and catch glimpses of the things that inspire her, like the vintage concert poster on her wall featuring Sly and the Family Stone.

Céu: I'm a superfan. I'm a big fan. I love so much Sly, and we have this poster here.

Werman: Funk, punk, grime, Brazilian bossa nova — those are just some of the styles that inform Céu's new album, "APKÁ."

Céu: It's funny because when I start an album, to compose and write the compositions, I never know exactly where I'm going. It's a very organic method that I have inside. And this album, what I knew is that I wanted to talk about all this super-polarization and all the opposites that we are living in these times. I'm talking especially in Brazil and Sao Paulo, and maybe that's why “APKÁ” has this big range of rhythms and melodies and styles.

Werman: You spoke about polarization in Brazil. What are the things that you see that have most impacted you?

Céu: We are like living the war here because we have this super-dangerous disease and we have a president that doesn't believe that it is really dangerous — Jair Bolsonaro. And he goes outside without a mask saying, “This is just a little silly cold. Everybody has to have it. It's not important.”

And then people here are talking about this racism. Everybody's so mixed here in Brazil that the racism is kind of hidden, you know? But the racism exists. So there is this super-polarized conversation about race, and black and white war. So everything is like a super-polarized world.

Werman: You wrote and recorded this album before the pandemic, before this global movement that's addressing racial inequalities around the planet. It suggests that the polarization was very obvious to you without all these things. So what song on “APKÁ” for you sums up all of this, from science denial to racism to just where we are today in the world?

Céu: You know, there is this specific song on “APKÁ,” which is “Forçar o Verão,” that talks about corruption. Corruption in Brazil is a structural thing, it's like the base of everything. So we have to look inside for our small attitudes. And day by day to try to break this corruption. So this song talks about this.

Werman: I'm not here to support any form of corruption, but I got to say corruption never sounded so groovy.