Not just for kids: Beleza’s children’s album is fun for the whole family

Beleza's new kids' album blends classic songs—"I've Been Working on the Railroad," for instance—with the duo's flamenco sound. Photo: Ashley Twiggs Beleza’s new kids’ album blends classic songs—”I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” for instance—with the duo’s flamenco sound. Photo: Ashley Twiggs

If you’re looking for a spicy night of dancing, not much beats Beleza. With a sound rooted in Latin- American and Spanish flamenco traditions—including lyrics sung in Portuguese, Spanish and English—the group performs either as a duo or a full band, and serves as the vehicle for the creative musings of husband and wife, Humberto and Madeline Sales. Described as “funkalicious samba soul,” while the couple’s repertoire is very much Latin-influenced, it’s also extremely diverse.

Indeed, a Beleza show features a blend of stylistic inflections ranging from samba, funk, soul, blues, bossa nova, jazz and flamenco, with a dusting of electronic sampling thrown in for good measure. While the genre influences are clear, the compositions are invariably run through the blender of Humberto’s Brazilian influence (he was raised in Salvador, Bahia). And now, the duo has added one more element to the mix: children’s music.

“Last year, we released a family-friendly album called Just for Fun,” says Madeline. “While it might seem like something of a diversion for us, it brought together so much of what brings us joy in our daily lives—a focus on family, friends, our students and good old-fashioned fun.”

With young nieces and nephews, and a studio dedicated to educating young Charlottesville area guitarists and vocalists, the two spend most of their days and many evenings surrounded by children. When a close friend suggested they do an album dedicated to the age group, they were struck by the idea. “We’d never considered it and immediately felt an excitement at the possibility of putting together a compilation focused on the whimsical and lighthearted nature of childhood and those that are young at heart,” says Humberto. “We felt inspired to create music that would celebrate the spirit of both.”

While it features arrangements of kiddie faves like The Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You,” “Little Liza Jane” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” Just for Fun is sophisticated and swinging, and appeals to more than just children. “The criteria for our song selection was to find songs that would be musically interesting and allow us to put in a tinge of humor and mischief,” says Madeline. “Essentially, we wanted this to be something that everyone could listen to together and love.”

Featuring Madeline’s old-school, Ella Fitzgerald-esque jazz-meets-soul vocals, and Humberto’s seamless ability to blend the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic complexity of Brazilian folk and samba music, and classical/flamenco guitar techniques with funky American jazz, Just for Fun more than achieves its goal. “We had such a blast making this album,” says Humberto. “We feel it is a success, and that’s left us with a desire to want to record more within the genre.”

In fact, looking to the future, Madeline hopes to record a lullabies project combining songs from America and Latin America alike.