If you were to put a face to the sultry Latino voice behind Smoke City, the London-based band known for its Brazilian samba-style music, Nina Miranda's sandy blonde mop and piercing emerald green eyes would hardly fit the mould. Her London accent is also a world away from the land of exotic carnivals. Born to a Brazilian father and French-speaking English mother, the statuesque 28-year-old's husky, sensuous vocals and her ability to slip effortlessly between Portuguese, French and English give the exotic flavour to Smoke City's music. The group's debut, Underwater Love, released last year, received favourable reviews in Britain and reached the top five of the singles chart. The single was featured in a Levi's commercial in which a drowning man is rescued by a shoal of mermaids. Smoke City is a three-member band, with Miranda on vocals, and former DJ Marc Brown and Chris Franck on programming, percussion, guitar and keyboards. Miranda, an art and design graduate, says the band's music is inspired by the two sides of Brazilian music: 'It has the bossa nova, which is very wistful melodic music, and the other half comes from samba, with roots in African music and lots of percussion. It is what they have in carnivals and marches and it is very energetic.' While Miranda is trilingual, she has always chosen to sing in Portuguese because 'I was very shy and singing in Portuguese, I knew that no one would understand me in England, so I could just sing whatever I wanted.' Another obvious advantage of using Portuguese is that it blends perfectly with the Latin-American style. Flying Away, Smoke City's debut album, combines samba beats, three languages and the 'London ingredients'. 'Our first album is very much a painter's palette. Underwater Love is blue and very watery. [The rest of the album] is then a counter action to what came before. So Devil Mood was a very red dry song that happened in a volcano. 'After Devil Mood, which is a very dramatic song, we wanted some peace again so we have Giulietta, which is just guitar and vocals. It is an album that takes you to different places. It is like a journey.' In terms of musical influences, Smoke City cites a long list, including Bob Marley, Brazil's Luiz Eca Tamba Trio, the films of Frederico Fellini, the Beatles and even Gene Kelly in Singing In The Rain. 'Our music is almost like a sketch that we have not finished,' Miranda says. 'Whoever listens to it can finish it themselves. 'Or it is like a book without illustrations - you are allowed to imagine the characters and scenery yourself.' Lyrics-wise, Miranda is inspired by the people she meets. 'I see my music as world music. It reflects the way the world has changed, is changing and hopefully will change for the better,' she says. 'London, for instance, is so cosmopolitan that it is conversations I have [with friends] that are reflected in the music. 'With You may be a traditional bossa nova song but it has a 40-piece string section, which is very traditional English.' Like samba music, Miranda adds, her songs are upbeat. With You is the band's current release, following the success of Mr Gorgeous , which stayed in the top spot in the Italian charts for several weeks last year. But how will Smoke City's 'alternative sound' fare in a world music market dominated by bubble gum pop groups and boy bands? Miranda says the band's music has taken some time to penetrate its home market because 'the English have got used to macho music, like Oasis - or the Spice Girls, which is about making money.' Smoke City hope to bring a degree of sensitivity back to the music scene. 'I see our music as a friend. It is about lifting people up, about getting them feeling positive . . . that anything is possible. It is also about being brave.' So, has the group plans to spread its joyful music to this part of the world? 'As soon as we are asked we'll come to Asia, though we haven't got plans yet,' Miranda says. 'We will be travelling in Europe this summer and to South America in the autumn. ' Smoke City is also working on its new album, which includes 'even more of the world' because since Flying Away , the band has been on tour and has seen much more of the globe. 'We are two years older and I think you can tell,' she says. 'Because we were working on the first half of the album in the winter, it was quite reflective. But with the summer coming, I think it is going to get a bit more upbeat.'