There was no way of telling that Bebel Gilberto was in excruciating pain as she took to the stage at the MO Bar, in Central's Landmark Mandarin Oriental, for an invitation-only show this month. Just 24 hours earlier, the New York-born singer famous for her Brazilian bossa nova beats had broken her right arm in two places. Maybe if the 250-odd VIP guests had been aware of her injuries, a few more would have refrained from adding insult to them by chatting as she performed.
Floating onto the small stage, Gilberto - the daughter of Brazilian bossa nova royalty Joao Gilberto and Miucha, who uses just the one name - looked regal, her dress sashaying rhythmically as if it were part of the choreography. Unfortunately, the chitter-chatter of the well-heeled, international crowd - the one-off event was part of the hotel's 10th anniversary celebrations and a tie-in with an exhibition at White Cube gallery, in Central, by Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes - flowed as freely as the champagne, the collective hum at times drowning out a voice that has sold millions of records.
The situation improved marginally in the second half, as a thinning crowd fell under Gilberto's spell; the most etiquette-challenged guests must have taken themselves off to a cinema to make phone calls.
Nevertheless, it must have been frustrating for those who love her music to watch the multi-Grammy-nominated star receive such a poor reception on her first visit to Hong Kong.
The following day, Gilberto, ensconced on a giant couch in a suite at the five-star hotel, is chirpy and full of praise for Hong Kong, showing all the charm you'd expect from a star of her calibre. Looking relaxed despite having slept for just four hours, she stands up and offers a hand to shake, exposing a chunky wrist brace, the result of a fall on a snow-covered subway platform in New York.
"I'd just finished having a massage, getting ready for my appearance in Hong Kong, and was in that very chilled head space when I fell. I was in pain but I didn't want to cancel my trip and disappoint those who were coming to the show."
Ouch. If only the crowd had been as considerate.
The singer spent the 16-hour flight from New York in agony.
"I was hysterical on the plane, crying all the way. The officials from the Qatar airline were very kind. They didn't want me to fly but I kept insisting that I'd see a doctor when I landed in Hong Kong. I kept telling them I had to make that flight, that I had to perform and there was no way I was cancelling it.
"They must have thought I was crazy."
Gilberto spent much of her first day in Hong Kong in hospital.
"The people at the hospital were amazing. The doctor told me I had broken my elbow and a bone in my wrist."
She stops for a moment to fire off an Instagram post. "Hong Kong adorable. I love Mandarin Oriental," she spells out loud.
"I like the black and white image. What do you think?" she asks, flashing a picture from the previous night's show. "It's more dramatic … OK, I'm all yours."
Gilberto seems to have a rose-tinted recall of the "amazing" show. Maybe it's the painkillers talking but I'd like to think it's because she has professionalism and class streaming happily alongside the bossa nova in her veins.
Joao Gilberto pioneered bossa nova in the late 1950s and is best known for Getz/Gilberto, the 1964 Grammy-award-winning album he released with the great American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz.
Combining Brazilian samba rhythms with the sophisticated harmonies of mid-50s jazz, the album ignited a global bossa nova craze (" bossa nova" means "new trend") and the album's opening track, The Girl from Ipanema, remains a standard in lounge bars the world over. Now in his early 80s, Joao Gilberto reportedly values his privacy, frequently shunning interviews and crowds. He also has high standards when it comes to noise control, his pursuit for pitch perfection seeing him walk out of performances if audiences are too loud. It would have been interesting to see how Gilberto Snr would have reacted to the show in Hong Kong.
Bebel Gilberto's impressive musical DNA doesn't stop there. Her mother is a bossa nova singer and her voice has been called one of the most beautiful in Brazil.
"My musical education was my childhood in Brazil," says Gilberto. "My father was always playing the guitar and would often play it until I went to sleep."
Gilberto's parents separated when she was seven and she split her time between her mother's home in Rio de Janeiro and New York, where her father lived, the influences of both cities - the breezy sounds of Rio and the edgier electronica of the Big Apple - helping to mould her signature brand of music.
She stops talking suddenly to adjust her brace, pain now starting to show on her face.
"I was reluctant to accept the lifestyle changes I was told by doctors to make when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis," she says, touching for the first time on the disease that renders her bones weak and brittle. "I didn't want to accept it but this year I changed all that. Now I exercise a lot and do yoga. It's made me strong in many ways.
"I've recovered from two broken ankles so I think I'm going to be OK. I did two tours with a broken ankle - one in 2007 and again in 2013. The first time I was in front of a club wearing very high heels and I lost my balance and badly broke my ankle. The other time I was walking up the spiral stairwell of my office, transfixed by a beautiful moon out the window, when I fell - bang, bang, bang, the sound of me falling down the stairs was the last thing I remember.
"I have to take shots of medication as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements, to strengthen my bones, but, to be honest, I'll probably have to walk in rubber," she says, seeing a lighter side.
While her Latin roots may explain her positive attitude, "I'm also strong because I was born in 1966 - I'm a Fire Horse," says Gilberto, matter of factly, referring to the Chinese zodiac sign representing the crossover of the Year of the Horse with the element of fire that occurs every 60 years. "Those born under this sign are strong and independent, and women under this sign are said to be a little dangerous … and a little crazy." There's that laugh again.
"I was told by an executive at Sony that in Japan, women avoided having children in 1966 because they feared the curse of the fiery horse, or hinoeuma. The birth rate in Japan for that year was very low [official statistics show it slumped by 500,000]."
But whatever the superstitious say about fiery equines' luck - or lack of it - there's no doubt Gilberto has had a blessed life. While admitting there have been times when the pressure to meet her family's high musical standards has been intense, she says, she's happiest when touring the world making music.
"Seeing new cultures and how audiences worldwide can embrace my music is the exciting part," she says.
Embracing music is something the young Bebel never struggled with.
"Music surrounded me [growing up] - it was like I was absorbing it without realising it. My parents never pushed me down this path and they also never said things like, 'You must be a doctor.' Music was just the natural path. The house was always full of music - and musicians. There were moments when I said to myself, 'I want normal parents, I want them to ask me to do my homework,' but it was always music, music, music. That was my life."
Bebel made her recording debut in 1977, on her mother's album Miucha & Antonio Carlos Jobim. Before the age of 10, she had joined her mother on stage at New York's Carnegie Hall, along with Getz, the first of many artists she would collaborate with (others include Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and Japanese DJ Towa Tei).
Gilberto made her solo recording debut in the United States with the 2000 album Tanto Tempo, unveiling for the first time the electronic bossa nova that has become her trademark. The album was received well in clubs worldwide. For her second album, Bebel Gilberto (2004), she refined the sound, creating an acoustic lounge style that showcased her strengths as a composer and, last August, she released Tudo, her fifth studio effort and first in more than five years. Produced by Mario Caldato - best known for his work with the Beastie Boys - it has been described as her most intimate recording yet.
"My music's for everyone and brings people together," says Gilberto, who also connects with people through social media. "I reply personally to all of my messages. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - it's growing and I love it. I put everything up and love making the fans feel good."
As if to prove the point, she checks her most recent Instagram post.
"Look, people are already commenting [on the photo she posted earlier] and when people wake up in the US they will get to see it … I love sharing like this."
Gilberto has also had exposure in more traditional media, her tunes having featured in the soundtracks of seven films, including the 2010 hit Eat Pray Love and the Mike Nichols-directed 2004 movie Closer, both of which starred Julia Roberts.
" Eat Pray Love - to be honest I didn't think the film was that great, but the book [by Elizabeth Gilbert] I loved. It makes you want to eat! I love Julia Roberts - I've never met her but having my songs in these films is such a great tribute to my work. In Closer, three of my songs were in the film and that's very exciting."
And it's no surprise to find her songs woven into films to heighten sexual tension. Take the scene in Closer when Natalie Portman and Clive Owen flirt after having met at a photo exhibition. The chemistry between the two could keep a Bunsen burner sizzling for hours, but it's Gilberto's seductive Samba da Benção in the background that brings the scene to the boil. The same song is heard in Eat Pray Love, the story of a divorcee's soul-searching travels.
"Couples find love with my music," whispers Gilberto, leaning over as if sharing a trade secret. And it's easy to see why; her music makes you want to grab a caipirinha, hop on a hammock and rock slowly back and forth until you drift into a delicious doze. It's no wonder so many YouTube clips of her tunes feature bikini-clad women on deserted beaches, the sound of waves and sunlight so warm, it can only be captured in a certain place at a certain time.
"I love the beach and I think you can feel that in my music," she says.
Sandy seduction aside, the next stop is her chilly hometown of New York and a tribute gig to Byrne and Talking Heads at Carnegie Hall (scheduled for tomorrow). Gilberto was one of the first artists to sign up for the annual tribute show, organised by City Winery, a New York wine producer that also hosts concerts to benefit music-education programmes. As well as the arts, Gilberto is a big supporter of issues of the heart. In 2011, she contributed the track Acabou Chorare to the Red Hot Organisation's Red Hot + Rio 2 album, proceeds of which went towards raising awareness and money to fight HIV/Aids and related health and social issues.
"I've been involved in raising awareness of the cause ever since I moved to New York City," says Gilberto. "It is particularly important to me because a dear friend, Cazuza - I worked with him for the [original] Red Hot + Rio album - died from the disease in 1990."
As the interview wraps up, the singer suddenly makes an emotional U-turn.
"You pay a price for being an artist. Look, I'm here alone," she says, making a sweeping motion with her hand around the spacious beige suite. "And there's a lot of pressure to renew yourself, especially when you're in your 40s, like I am. I have my family and my wonderful friends but sometimes I think I should have settled down and had kids - I regret every day that I didn't have a child."
Then, as if flicking an emotional switch, she looks again to her horoscope: "Anyway, those born under the Fire Horse, they shouldn't have kids. My kids are my albums and they are very beautiful and they make me happy. Maybe one day I'll adopt.
"Who knows what the future holds?"
Hopefully it will involve a second Hong Kong show; one with a more appreciative audience.