Born Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças on 17th April 1980 in São Paulo, Brazil, her father was a composer, arranger, and musicologist. It was from him that she learned to appreciate Brazil's classical music composers, particularly Heitor Villa-Lobos and Ernesto Nazaré, as well as popular musicians like Orlando Silva. By the age of fifteen she had decided to become a musician, and by her late teens she had studied music theory, as well as the violão (nylon-stringed Brazilian guitar). Her songs reveal her many influences, which include samba, valsa, choro, soul, rhythm and blues, hip hop, reggae, afrobeat, and electrojazz. In particular, she cites as influences the music of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu. By her late teens Céu was performing onstage with major artists and exploring the repertoire of the marchinhas (turn-of-the-century carnival music). Soon after that she relocated temporarily to New York City, where she had a chance meeting with fellow Brazilian musician Antonio Pinto, who became her flatmate while he was going through some financial difficulties. She later learned that he was actually a distant cousin, and their relationship was renewed when he teamed up with lead producer Beto Villares, composer of the musical score for the film O Ano em que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, to help her record her album.