The Brazilian superstar talks to Billboard about her U.S. tour, Brazil's protest movement, and why she won’t do a World Cup song.
Brazilian superstar Ivete Sangalo is a down-home diva. She includes her manicurist in conversation and humors her four-year-old son’s pleas to make him his favorite acai berry smoothie while on the phone with Billboard from her residence in Salvador, Bahia, the city best known abroad for its spectacular Carnaval, of which Sangalo is a queen. Sangalo currently reigns as the most popular female singer in Brazil, bringing personal warmth to her spectacular high-energy stage shows and pop songs built on the Afro-Brazilian dance rhythm called axé.
Sangala has opened for Beyonce in Brazil, collaborated with Shakira, and sung the themes to telenovelas. Her best known hit, “Sorte Grande,” became a soccer anthem.
The singer, who has performed songs in English and Spanish as well as Portuguese, credits her 2010 sold-out debut at Madison Square Garden to the Brazilian grapevine.
“I have a Brazilian community [in the U.S.],” she says. “If you have a restaurant, you put on the DVD of my concert. If you are a manicurist, when the client comes, she plays my songs. I call them my agents.”
Sangalo’s "Real Fantasia Tour 2013" opens Friday (Aug. 9) in Oakland, bringing her to the West Coast for the first time. The tour stops in Los Angeles; Lynn, Mass.; Newark, and Miami.
“I think so many Brazilians will bring American people to my concerts to show them," Sangalo says. “She is my singer, she’s from Brazil.”
You’re about to tour the West Coast for the first time. You’ve already sold out Madison Square Garden. Why haven’t you performed more here? And in general, why don’t more Brazilians bring their music to the U.S.?
It’s a question that I ask myself. But Brazil is so big and we spend a lot of time and energy here. I have to feed my country! I wasn’t available to go anywhere for a long time. When we do a tour here in Brazil, we have so many places to go, and when you think to go out and do the same work you have to want a lot and have time to go there.
I feel ready. It’s about time. There is no borderline for me. So many people follow me, they follow my energy.
Widespread popular protests have focused international attention on Brazil. How have you and other artists been involved in the movement?
We are a part of this. I have many, many fans. I give them my opinion, but I don’t want to fire them up because I’m an artist, not a politician. And they trust me. I’m an artist but I’m a citizen. I scream for my rights with them.
Brazil is changing very slowly because we are growing very fast. The people here they are paying attention to everything that happens around us. There are so many people on the streets who complain about what is right and wrong, and I think it’s normal because we are growing. We have many things we need to fix. We are a rich country but there are so many things to do.
I’m 41 years old. I’ve been watching many, many changes. I think it is time to tell the politicians what is right for us. No singing, no concert, no parties; just to tell them.
The 2014 World Cup will take place in Brazil. You recently sang at the closing ceremony of the Confederations Cup game in which Brazil beat Spain. In 2011, you performed at the Preliminary Draw in Rio. And your song “Sorte Grande” was a theme for Brazil at the 2002 World Cup.
It’s been speculated you’ll record a song that could be the official anthem for the 2014 World Cup. Are you preparing something?
Many, many artists here are doing a song for the World Cup; it’s a kind of war. Every record, every album has a World Cup song. I don’t like to do songs for this or for that. I have my own energy. It has to be spontaneous.
What are your expectations for this tour?
Actually, I don’t know what to expect. I hope that they will come to my concert to have fun, to sing with me, and to get good memories.