Now in its ninth year, Brasil Summerfest brings high-caliber music, film, art, workshops, talks, and a food fair to multiple venues in New York City. This year's visiting musicians include the pop-rock sensation and Latin Grammy Award–winner Tulipa Ruiz, who will be performing a free show at the David Rubenstein Atrium on Thursday, August 1. Petrit Pula, founder of Brasil Summerfest, sat down with Tulipa to learn about her inspiration and her musical roots.


Petrit Pula: Can you tell us a little bit about your latest album, TU?

Tulipa Ruiz: Me and my brother, Gustavo Ruiz, were on our third album, Dancê, which had won the 2015 Latin Grammy Award, and were touring with our band. We had already produced Efêmera (2010) and Tudo Tanto (2012). The concept for the new one was to register our performance as a duet—voice and guitar, as we used to do during our very first international tours. This format deals with the structure of the songs themselves. But soon we were involved with percussion and new songs—well, you can't avoid them, right? Stéphane San Juan, a French drummer and percussionist who lived in Brazil and who played with Gustavo, was one of the first enthusiasts of our duo project. He easily shifted from producer to musician. Nomadic by nature, Stéphane was then established in New York City. As we had space left in our itinerary, we managed to record TU (2017) in New York City. We met Adán Jodorowsky in Mexico after several events that honored his father [filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky]. And percussionist Mauro Refosco and Scotty Hardy (from Duro of Brooklyn Studio fame) are Stéphane’s acquaintances.

PP: You mentioned your brother Gustavo, who is a close collaborator. How much influence does he have in the music-making process?

TR: We grew up together around our parents' records. During our childhood, and as an older sister, I was Gustavo's greatest influence. Later, in São Paulo (we were raised in Minas Gerais), he became mine. He took classical guitar lessons erratically in summer camps, a few cello classes, and soon became a pro—playing, recording, and working in ballrooms. When I started to show my songs, Gustavo was starting as a producer. Efêmera wasn't his very first effort in this area, but one of them. We began to compose together with no roles or rules. Many times, he is just in charge of making my wildest dreams come true. And he's the bandleader, naturally!

PP: You are an incredible singer and have such a wide vocal range. Was singing always part of your life? How did it all start?

TR: As I said before, I was raised with music. My father is a musician, and my mom is an actress who sings. Singing was natural for me. And living far from the major cities makes people—the young ones—get together and form groups. Soon, I was making music in school and in the streets, and I was even broadcasting myself as a radio DJ. In São Paulo, people started calling me to sing at parties, friends' gigs, suddenly in records, but my heart wasn't in it. I did study some classical singing, and Indian music too. Very little. But I was working with illustration and journalism; I have a degree in it. And I always loved album covers. The arts.

PP: Who are some of your musical heroes?

TR: I love female voices. Gal Costa, Baby do Brasil, Joni Mitchell, Meredith Monk, and so on. But I don't see them as singers simply. They're composers and bandleaders, even if they don't see themselves that way.

PP: What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?

TR: In global terms, mostly in my country, there is a value crisis that affects the arts—how to create it, how to enjoy it, how to produce it. Soon, there will be no incentives any more, simple as that. I hope that the people, I mean ourselves, do not let it happen.

PP: Tell us what we can expect from your upcoming Brasil Summerfest show at the Atrium?

TR: We're running a kind of "the best of" in terms of my career. But it could be seen as, well, as an introduction to my music. In the next month, we will be touring with the famous bossa nova legend João Donato, and soon we'll be working on the new record. You can expect a lot of emotion from us. We're living in a very intense moment.


Petrit Pula is the founder and director of Brasil Summerfest, the largest contemporary Brazilian music and arts festival in the world outside of Brazil.