Though this may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with Brazil's music scene, Daúde is a rare find: a Black woman in Brazil's eclectic pop-roots music, known as Música Popular Brasileira (MPB), and the first to fuse MPB with African roots and modern production values, setting the whole thing alight with sensual, driving dance beats.

While many of her peers have been abandoning Brazilian music to undertake rock, hip-hop, techno and dance, Daúde takes the opposite tack. She looks to see how these forms can be brought back to enhance Brazilian music, not to replace it. The mix is all her own and the style she has created is unique.

After a four-year break between albums of new material, she returned with her first album on Real World Records. "Neguinha Te Amo is really an homage to the Brazilian woman and her strength," says Daúde, "and to the legacy of mixed races, the happiness, humour and knowing tolerance of the Brazilian people -- and, finally, to Africa, expressed naturally and in a modern style. I never doubted what I was doing. Even with the world in such a mess, this is what carried me through the making of the album. Throughout, my challenge was to show another side of Brazilian music."

The word neguinha is a term of endearment in Portuguese and means little black girl, the album title being therefore Little Black Girl, I Love You.

The stories she tells on Neguinha Te Amo are richly varied, and they're told in the language of the music as well as in the lyrics. Through the percolation of loops and beats, Daúde seeks to re-emphasise the African soul of the music while she bolsters the innately Brazilian. "The African element is natural to Brazilian music," Daúde explains. "It's expressed through rhythm and often directly in the singing style, vocalisation and improvisation. It doesn't need flourishes and vibrato."

Daúde has collected songs that treat romantic topics, but also social and political ones. She explains, "Muito Quente, for example, describes how black brothers and sisters can feel about themselves, with positive imagery that's also full of humour. Crioula, a duet with the great Jorge Benjor, is a celebration of black Brazilian womanhood. And Uma Neguinha describes a personal experience that all women of colour will recognise. They will also identify with many other things on the album. The need to make the album went way deeper than just wanting to further my professional career."

None of this is to say that Neguinha Te Amo is some intellectual exercise. Far from it. Daúde's voice and attitude sail over a music that's got a sensual, funky swagger, that's very earthy, rhythmic, danceable, sexy. "I like songs that move me," Daúde says. "This emotion isn't linked to place, it could be Brazilian it could be from anywhere. With the best Brazilian music, there can often be a perfect marriage of harmony, melody, rhythm and lyrics."

Daúde was born Maria Waldelurdes Costa de Santana Dutilleux, hence the opportune switch to three syllables (it's pronounced Dah-oo-jee). She was born in Salvador, Bahia, the pulsing heart of African Brazil, and spent her first eleven years there. "I was born in a blessed place," she says. "I grew up in a favela where the song of the crickets and the noise of the swamp were pure symphonies. It might have been this that gave me a soul so full of music."

A loving and musical family helped as well. Her father introduced her to the great Brazilian interpreters and popular traditions, her mother and aunts to the romantic singers and those of the great generation of Brazilian popular music (MPB) stars like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethânia, Chico Buarque and a host of others.

When Daúde was eleven, the family moved to Rio de Janeiro. It was there, on radio, that she heard American soul artists and British blues rockers for the first time, mixed in with her beloved Brazilians. She would dance and sing along - and right then and there decided to become a singer. She started learning technique. When the family moved away again, years later, she stayed, studying singing professionally. Then she took a university degree in Portuguese and Literature.

Her career began in theatrical musicals and in nightclubs throughout Rio de Janeiro. It was through them that she came to record her first disc in 1995, the eponymous Daúde. It was already forging the link between the traditional and modern that Daúde continues to this day. Even on this first release she met with critical raves. She won a Brazilian Grammy, the Premio Sharp, in the new artist category. Her second disc appeared in 1997, Daúde #2, this one co-produced by Will Mowat (Soul II Soul, Angélique Kidjo, Chico César) and Celso Fonseca. "She was the first of the younger generation to get into fusing MPB with beats and loops," Will explains. On that album, their first collaboration, the roster of songs helped add an international audience to Daúde's already impassioned Brazilian one.

Daúde's work with Will Mowat has come to full fruition on Neguinha Te Amo. "One of the reasons for working with Will," she reveals, "is to reach out to the international public with a different vision of Brazilian music, a vision that goes beyond the established clichés, beyond the tropical stereotype."

Will explains that "to get the maximum energy out of a song I manipulate its arrangement and chord structure to come up with a fresh statement. These songs are like brand new, even the better known ones, like Ilê Ayê (Que Bloco É Esse?) and Canto de Ossanha. I completely pulled them apart and rebuilt them for Daúde, to shed new light on what's already there." But Daúde had clear ideas on it too. It was her idea to insert the famous theme by the legendary Pierre Barouh and Francis Lai to Claude Lelouch's film 'Un homme et une femme' ('A Man And A Woman') inside Sans Dire Adieu. The disc includes a beautiful French-language version as well, with lyrics specially written for her by Pierre Barouh.

There is an obvious passion and shared vision in this recording. "Will and I are two strong-minded people," Daúde reveals. "I knew what I wanted and had my own convictions in terms of the work. Will had his in relation to his side of the production and the market, so it was a perfect match, and therefore a dangerous one!" Dangerous? "Yes, we fought almost daily, on the same side or opposing ones, to get the balance right."

Will agrees, saying, that what ultimately saved the project was "our inner conviction that what we were doing was right - I rate her so much, I stuck by her through thick and thin, and she by me."

"Her musical vision is her own," Will says of Daúde. "She is urban, sophisticated, feminine and romantic and loves techno and dance and clubbing. Not for her the Brazilian clichés of sand and sun. She always felt her destiny was outside of Brazil, but with her feet planted in the Brazilian soil."

Her fans awaited the new release anxiously. "Our Black Pearl of Brazilian popular music," enthused one on her website, "without doubt you're the swingingest muse." Her reputation at home is inestimable: "Daúde, you are the pride of us all."