Flavia Coelho releases “Mundo Meu” (My World)

Flavia Coelho’s second album “Mundo Meu” is soon to be released. The Brazilian singer and songwriter, residing in Paris since 2006, will also be performing at London’s Rich Mix on the 18th of May. The album comes with the participation of guests such as the Sierra Leonean-German singer-songwriter Patrice, the cult-rapper Speech (Arrested Development), Tony Allen, Woz Kaly, Fixi and Ultra Bal. “My album is full of guests, because that’s how my life is: a big party”- she explains. Talking to her on the phone, felt like being at a party run by a warm and spontaneous hostess.

I started by asking about the process she uses to compose her songs. The first track in her new Album, “Por Cima”(Over), sounds like a typical Brazilian bolero from the 50s but with a witty and modern techno touch. The lyrics talk about dysfunctional adult love, with all the drama of soap operas: “That’s right! It is very melodramatic, just like a Brazilian soap opera” – she laughs. This contrasts with the innocence of the song “Espero Voce” (Waiting for you), which she sings in duet with Patrice. While “Por Cima” is like “Romance and Cigarettes”, “Espero Voce” is all about sweet platonic love. Those two songs are among other tracks that talk about politics, social justice and environment.

Flavia explains that she does not plan her songs before hand: “I don’t sit down and make up my mind about when to write about love, sex or politics. It is at the end that I manage to understand what my songs are about…I do not put barriers to my subconscious when I am writing. For me, music is music, regardless of the style.”

Tracks such as “People Dansa”, talks about the reality in which she was brought up in Brazil, starting from her childhood memories to more current themes such as Global Warming. When she talks about her early years, even over the phone, it is possible to feel her smile through the subtle change of tone and rhythm in her voice. She told me that at the age of 5, she would go around the house singing her lungs out. Her mum, in a moment of annoyance, got a bucket and put it over her head saying: “Now you can sing as loud as you want. Only you will be hearing your own voice”. The bucket worked as an echo chamber that fascinated Flavia, while she sang Nina Hagen, Diana Ross and Gal Costa. From then on, she never stopped singing. The most striking point of this conversation is when she mentioned about going barefoot to the school. While some would view this as a sign of poverty, the free-spirited and always positive Flavia makes it sound as a privilege: “As a child, I loved running, jumping, shouting and I was able to do all this. I was full of energy.”

Such energy has not been lost at all throughout the years. While performing on the stage at WOMAD UK 2013, she was just electrifying. There she met Speech, from Arrested Development: “I was performing at 1pm under a scalding sun. There was a group of people in the backstage who really seemed to be enjoying the gig. They were dancing and taking pictures. It was Victor Vagh, my producer, who recognised Speech and told me. I said: What do you mean, mate? I grew up listening to Arrested Development.” She was then introduced to Speech. They exchanged contacts and agreed on a future collaboration that ends up in “Mundo Meu” with the track “O Don”.

We went back to talk about the start of her career in Paris, when she met Bika Bika Pierre and was discovered by Victor Vagh, from Vagh and Weinmann Music: ” I used go busking in the Paris metro, something we would never do in Brazil. I would also sing in bars, where I met several other musicians, including Bika. One day, I told him that I was tired of singing other people’s songs and that I would like to record my own album. From that moment we started writing a few songs together and later we met Victor Vagh. Victor liked my work and accepted the challenge of working with a Brazilian artist who mixes all styles of music.”

But it was at the age of 14 that she started singing professionally, after answering to a newspaper advert looking for a singer in a band. She attended the audition and was accepted, while keeping her adventure hidden from her strict parents for 2 years. Before she knew it she was singing every type of music: traditional folk Brazilian songs, reggae, grunge, rock and punk in nightclubs, bars and festivals.

“Mundo Meu”, translated as “My World” is exactly what it says. It is the world of Flavia, full of rich and contrasting experiences lived under the whole spectrum of life.

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