Friday, March 28, 2008

Antônio Rago - Regional & Solo Violão

The importance of regional and national radio networks cannot be overestimated in the process of spreading choro and making it a significant Brasilian artform.The first radio broadcast in Brazil was aired September 7, 1922 to celebrate the centennial of Brasilian independence. In this first broadcast Pixinguinha and his Oito Batutas were featured playing examples of the group's repertoire, including choros. From then on soon evolved the professional choro ensembles that became the workhorse of the radio industry in the 1930s and 1940s, the conjuntos regionais. These ensembles were based on the choro terno of guitar, cavaquinho and melody instrument (- usually flute) augmented by pandeiro and the seven-string guitar, and they were responsible for accompanying singers and instrumentalists in a wide array of styles. Through radio, the sound of the regoinais reached even the most remote part of the nation, where it became known not just as the music of Rio da Janeiro but as the music of the entire nation. The regionais were usually named after the lead player and they functioned as in-house orchestras, accompanying singers, playing dance music and - choros. These groups also provided background music and music to fill in between acts on live radio shows. The radio regionais often performed live in front of studio audience and were expected to accompany any and all types of repertoire of the day. The demand of high level of performance expected from the musicians helped refining choro in the way we know it today. (Info excerpted from T.E. Livingston-Isenhour & T.G.C. Garcia, "Choro, A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music" (2005), p. 88-91)
One of many successful conjuntos regionais was led by Antônio Rago (1916-2008), who had his career in radio and TV as a distinguished accompanist of some of the best talents of the Golden Age of Brazilian song. Rago was influenced by the Italo-Brazilian music he heard in his borough of Bexiga and learned to play the violão at 14. He also studied classical music, and his first job was as a member of the regional led by Armandinho.
With leader Armandinho and bandmate Zé Carioca, Rago had success in the group's violão trio. Later he toured Argentina and Uruguay accompanying the singer Arnaldo Pescuma. Returning to Brazil in 1937, he was hired by Rádio Tupi (São Paulo), becoming crooner Francisco Alves's accompanist. Besides leading and performing with his conjunto regional (see picture above), Rago also had a solo career. His first solo recording came in 1940, performing his valse "Velhos Tempos." He wrote music for the animated cartoon 'Cozinhando Um Samba' (1946). His bolero "Jamais Te Esquecerei" (with Juraci Rago) was included in the film 'Quase No Céu' (by Oduvaldo Viana, 1949).

In 1950, the Regional do Rago won the price as Best Regional Group of the year. Rago had his own show on TV Tupi, the first Brazilian television. He also wrote erudite music, like "Flor Triana" and "Sonatina Em Lá Menor". Rago released several LPs of solo work, unfotunately none of these have been re-issued on cd. However, you have an opportunity to listen to some of the recordings by Antônio Rago in one of the programs by Fábio Zanon from Rádio Cultura, SP, to learn more click here

(above info excerpted from article by Alvaro Neder in AMG)


Friday, March 21, 2008

Guitar Choro Request

Some weeks ago I had a request from a regular visitor of this blog regarding sheet music of choro for (acoustic) guitar/violão. I am still investigating what has been published for purchase and is still available, I'll post a message about this issue later, when I have gathered some more info. - However, if you are searching for guitar choro sheet music on the web, I like to point you to a great resource site, managed by Dirk Meineke, simply named Dirk's Guitar Page
In the section devoted to Latin Guitar Music you'll find several guitar choro compositions transcribed in music and tablature, available as free pdf files for download, sound files in midi also available (- you'll need a Windows Media Player to play the audio). The files are free for personal use and study only, not for commercial distribution, please mind this!
I insert the links to a couple of the available files at Dirk's Guitar Page.
"Guitar Choro" by Mario Gangi, .pdf document here - sound file (midi) here
"Choro" by Raul Maldonado, .pdf document (zip-file) here - sound file (midi) here

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nonato Luiz: O Choro da Madeira

Nonato Luiz (Raimundo Nonato de Oliveira Luiz) (b 1952) is a highly regarded and respected Brazilian guitarist and composer, who mixes classical influences in his rootsy playing, distinctly reflecting the rich tradition of the violão in the North East of Brazil. - At three he took up the cavaquinho. At 15 he was already the second violinist of the Symphonic Orchestra of Fortaleza. At that age he opted for the violão (acoustic guitar) as his definitive instrument. In 1975, having already begun to compose, he won the first prize in a violão contest, the same year finishing his studies with Turíbio Santos. Since the '80s he has toured annually through Europe and other contries, he has recorded extensively both in Brazil and abroad and worked with other renowned MPB performers besides continuing his career as a composer and performer in the classical field.

Learn more about Nonato Luiz from his official website (- both in Portuguese and English), click here

Recently I had a copy of the shown cd, 'O Choro da Medeira' (CPC-Umes, CPC 022, released 1999) by Nonato Luiz. The cd has 15 tracks, 9 of them featuring compositions by Nonato Luiz, the remaining have compositions by Pixinguinha, Garoto, João Pernambuco, Paulinho da Viola and Caetano Veloso. I highly recommend these recordings as a splendid example of the accomplished guitar artistry of Nonato Luiz (- click on picture to see tracklist). Sheet music of the compositions by Nonatio Luiz from this cd is also available, to learn more click here

Fábio Zanon has devoted one of his programs to Nonato Luiz in his continuing series of programs on the Brazilian guitar tradition, to be reached clicking here

To give you an impression of Nonato Luiz as a performer, I insert a video from a performance vith symphonic orchestra of one of his compositions available at the mentioned cd, 'Choro dos arcos'. More videos featuring Nonato Luiz available at YouTube


Friday, March 07, 2008

Saxophone, Why Cry?

The classic choro tune, "Saxofone, Por Que Choras", is still performed by choro ensembles of today - it has become a part of the standard book repertoire. The piece was composed and recorded in 1930 by the highly accomplished pioneer of the saxophone in Brazil, Severino Rangel de Carvalho (1896-1972), better known through his artist name as Ratinho. Ratinho was not the first to play choros on the saxophone, but he was the main discoverer of this instrument in Brazilian popular music through his compositions and accomplished performance.

Ratinho was from the North East part of Brazil, Pernambuco state. In 1918 he met José Luís Rodrigues Calazans (1896-1977), known as Jararaca. Together with guitarists Pirara and Romualdo Miranda, the cavaquinho player Robson and the percussionist Artur Souza they formed Bloco dos Boêmios. In that group all members adopted nicknames designating animals, and Jararaca and Ratinho kept theirs throughout their careers. In July 1921 Bloco dos Boêmios had a job at a theatre in Recife together with the visiting Oito Batutas, the famous Pixinguinha group. Inspired by Pixinguinha, Donga and the other Batutas the group adopted the name of Turunas Pernambucanos (see picture above) and were invited to perform in Rio 1922. With their typical northeastern clothing and music they were an instant success in Rio, soon receiving the invitation to record for Odeon. At the same time the group did a six-month tour of the South of Brazil and extended the tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina, but dissolved soon afterwards. Jararaca & Ratinho remained for some time in Montevideo, Uruguay, performing together as a duo, but then moved on to São Paulo in 1927.

Their first big opportunity came in 1928, when crooner Francisco Alves recorded "Meu Sabiá" (by Jararaca) for Odeon. In 1929 the duo recorded their first album for Odeon including "Caipirada" and "Lista do Baile" (both by Jararaca & Ratinho). As humorists they interspersed sketches with musical acts. In the next year Ratinho recorded some of his waltzes and choros, including the choro "Saxofone, Por Que Choras". Becoming a permanent attraction with the public the duo also had room for the solo careers of their members. Jararaca's carnavalesca march "Mamãe Eu Quero" (a co-work with Vicente Paiva), recorded by Jararaca for Odeon, was a big hit in the carnival of 1937, remaining a classic marchinha performed in every carnival to this day.

The duo was hired by the Rádio Nacional on a permanent basis from 1936 to 1945. They had a show of their own and also performed in other shows, where Ratinho played his choros on the saxophone. At the same time they continued recording albums for Odeon and touring the country. They also worked for TV. In 1998 a compilation of their works was published by Funarte/Atração on the CD Jararaca e Ratinho (ATR 32057), still available.

Above info excerpted from article by Alvaro Neder in AMG

I found a performance of Ratinho's "Saxofone, Por Que Choras" inserted below in the memory of Jararaca & Ratinho