Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, to parents of Portuguese descent, Nelly Furtado has always been surrounded by music. Her mother is a former church choir singer, while her father -- a fan of Portuguese music styles, known as "fado" -- sings as a pastime. Her grandfather played instruments, and even her great-uncle was a renowned Portuguese marching band score composer.
All of these family elements inspired Nelly's passion for music and a broad spectrum of musical genres at that. By the age of four, young Nelly was playing the ukulele and singing in Portuguese and English, and was the trombone player of a jazz band, concert band and marching band, from nine to eighteen. Her vocal chords and dance skills were also useful with her involvement in musical plays.
hip-hop's what she's got
She knew early on in her childhood that she wanted to be a performer, and her dreams were realized via several chance opportunities and events throughout her life. Nelly received a tape recorder and microphone when she was eight years old, which served as a key part of her musical influences.
Exposed to the rush of new hip-hop acts spawning in the early '90s, Nelly became fascinated by the sounds of TLC, Bel Biv Devoe, Ice-T, Mariah Carey, and the new sampling methods used at the time. With the help of her tape recorder, Nelly would sample the sounds that impressed her, similar to those used by popular '90s acts. She sang into her microphone and recorded original sounds with the "scratch effect" of her keyboard.
A self-proclaimed R&B and hip-hop lover, Nelly was later exposed to the
British rock sounds of the mid '90s, after a trip to her ancestral
Portugal. Teenage Nelly's eyes were now open to groups such as U2,
Radiohead, Oasis, while she discovered Portishead thanks to a mix tape that a friend of hers made. The tribal beats and bossa nova sounds evident in her music come from the music she was exposed to later on, such as a
Brazilian compilation album that combined African and Portuguese styles.
whoa, nelly, wow!
The album is the product of her participation in a Toronto young performer's talent show at the age of 18. The manager of the Philosopher
Kings, a popular funk/pop group, who was also present at the show, was impressed by Nelly's talent.
The only real recording experience she had up to this point was singing back-up vocals for her friend's Toronto-based hip-hop group. But that was enough to cut a demo tape with the recording team of Gerald Eaton and Brian
West (of the Philosopher Kings). After much convincing on the part of Eaton and West, Nelly returned to Toronto to record more tracks.
The fruit of this work is what led to Nelly's record-contract with
DreamWorks Records. Her album, entitled Whoa Nelly!, which has already spawned the hit singles "I'm Like A Bird," "Turn Off The Light" and "...On
The Radio," was released in the Fall of 2000.
No stranger to touring, Nelly was part of the Lilith Fair tour, with a bill consisting of female performers such as Beth Orton, Chrissie Hynde, and of course, Sarah McLachlan (who is one of Nelly's idols). The singer- songwriter also contributed a track to the soundtrack for the film,
a soaring bird
And she has her share of fans. Elton John praised Nelly's work and talent
"on the record"; she was invited to pay tribute to Aretha Franklin at a tribute concert for the queen of soul; she released a duet with rap producer and singer Missy Elliot, "Get UR Freak On," appearing on the Lara
Croft: Tomb Raider soundtrack; and she was invited to perform at the Area:
One tour, and was named one of the most talented and beautiful women in the world by the tour organizer, Moby.
Her critically-acclaimmed debut album not only showcases the mix of musical backgrounds -- African beats, hip-hop, folk, urban style, bossa nova, and the Portuguese "fado" -- it also highlights a new talent that will definitely soar like a bird.
With so many musical acts today sounding like the same homogenous contrived and formulated "noise," when something original and fresh comes along, it's easily noticeable. That's what happens when you listen to Nelly Furtado's debut album Whoa! Nelly. Her first single "I'm Like A Bird" has etched its way up the charts, and appearances on Jay Leno only cemented her place as a rising star.
Nelly's eclectic sound can be traced back to her assorted cultural background. Though she was born and raised in Canada, her Portuguese roots helped introduce her to Portugal and Brazil's top performers, giving a well- rounded international feel to her music often lacking in her counterparts.
Like her music or not, you'll appreciate the refreshing break from Britney