Originally published in
September 2010
Cibelle Cavalli will waltz you into oblivion
Welcome to Las Venus Resort Palace Hotel, the cabaret at the end of the world. Your host is Sonja Khalecallon who, with her house band Los Stroboscopious will take you on an intoxicating, twisted waltz through tropicalia. “It's a lovely hotel, with a cabaret room, where Las Vegas used to be but now it's thick jungle. It’s the best party in this galaxy,” says Sonja, who is better known as Brazilian singer/songwriter Cibelle Cavalli. “There are monkeys chilling by the pool, we haven't had acid rain in a while so they’re not too big. Still, watch out for your belongings, they love shinny things.”
In Brazil I have kudos, it's not blind madness with people wanting to cut a lock of my hair off while I’m out buying a loaf of bread

Cibelle invented this kitsch and crazy concept for her third album as a way to indulge her love of the exotica genre. Part tribute, part pastiche, all this girl wants to do is have fun. “Sonja is quite trashy, silly, sweet, dramatic and oversexed at times. She’s not so much my alter ego as a caricature of me at my highest freak out moments. She’s me in drag, I suppose,” Cibelle explains. “I wanted the album to be like a cheap package holiday that takes you to where there are no social rules, no trying to impress people, no coolness. You can just let your hair down, get sweaty, and let yourself go.”

From the wonky, ukulele-assisted cover of Underneath The Mango Tree to The Gun And The Knife, her suicidal duet with Sam Genders from Tunng, via Man From Mars, a song about being chatted up by a hot alien with blue eyes, Las Venus is a disco where Nancy Sinatra, Ursula Andress, Florence And The Machine and Björk all dissolve into a dazzling, decaying oblivion.

Born in São Paolo in 1978, Cibelle willingly admits she was “a strange child with a colourful imagination”. She studied piano, percussion, drama and circus at an arts conservatory before doing a stint as a model in Japan. “I was always singing at castings and between takes on shoots so music began to kidnap me,” she says. Back home she appeared on Suba’s pioneering album São Paulo Confessions in 1999 and in 2002 she moved to East London, where she released her eponymous debut album the following year. “When I arrived it felt like I belonged. It was an oasis of creativity. I loved the mess, the mix of people from all over the world, the Turkish guys selling dreadlock clothes for £1.”

Her second album The Shine Of Dried Electric Leaves featured duets with Seu Jorge, Spleen and Devendra Barnhart, and two Eps preceded 2010’s Las Venus. Her musical journey has taken her through trip hop and folktronica to tropical punk while her DJ sets are a pick’n’mix of Cambodian garage, 60s synth pop, Four Tet and Chilly Gonzales.

She’s toured with Grizzly Bear, Owen Pallett and CocoRosie this summer where her extravagant stage shows have bordered on bacchanal. “I’ve been wearing tights with gymnastic bodysuits, and then adding headpieces. I have a little robe to go on stage with, like Sonja coming out of her boudoir to perform for the space travellers. I also dress up the stage with silly photos I find on the internet and fry in Photoshop. My band used to be more revolving but now it’s La Shark and Jacob and it just gets hotter and hotter. It's pretty much like making love to each other on stage, Barbarella-style.”

Cibelle’s personal style is as chaotic – trashed dungarees and daisy earrings are recent acquisitions - but a constant is her love of Brazilian fashion. “I support my friends who make amazing art in the shape of clothes - Vanessa da Silva, Neon, Amapô, Fkawallys, Basso and Brooke, Borba Margo and Lucas Nascimento. Brazilian fashion is shaking the world!”

Although a best kept secret in the UK, at home Cibelle is a star. “In Brazil I have kudos, it's respectful and loving, it's not blind madness with people wanting to cut a lock of my hair off while I’m out buying a loaf of bread. So if the same happens in the UK, it would be sweet, but the universe is wise, whatever it brings me, I'm cool with it.”

She is raising her stakes with performances all over the world and although she’s yet to serenade Australia, it’s only a matter of time. “Bring me to your land, oh people of Oz,” she screams. “I want to come to the Land of Oz!”
Get your scissors at the ready.