Thursday, July 24, 2008

Viola - Inside Out

The viola is the name for a 10-string steel-string acoustic guitar, used in Brazilian folk music. Its origins are obscure, but some folklorists believe it to be an archaic form of the Arab lute that elsewhere evolved into the modern guitar. The Portuguese brought the viola with them to Brazil.

- Brazilian violas have 5 pairs of steel strings in a body similar to that of a smaller Spanish guitar. A large number of tunings are used; open tunings are common.

Violas are present in nearly all Brazilian music forms, anywhere in the country (although it is declining in some places). It is most often associated with Caipira Music (Brazilian country music), with some forms of North-Eastern music and with folkloric music. It was once used to play urban music, like choro, samba and Maxixe, but has since been replaced by the more common violão/acoustic guitar. (info from Wikipedia)

Cacai Nunes (b.1978) from Pernambuco, but raised in Brasilia, is one exponent of a new generation, who has devoted a study to the 10-string viola Caipira. In august 2006 Cacai Nunes released his debut album titled “O AVESSO” (Portugese for "inside out"). This work features some of his solo performances and also modern arrangments for viola caipira, bass guitar and drums. Original compositions an pieces of composers such as Pixinguinha, Chiquinha Gonzaga and Dilermando Reis, get a fresh and different approach on Cacai's interpretation.

Learn more about Cacai Nunes at his official website (- in Portuguese only) to be reached clicking here

Cacai Nunes also has a profile (- in English) at MySpace with the possibility of listening to the mentioned cd and viewing several of uploaded videos, click here

Below I insert a couple of the video performances uploaded at YouTube to give you an impression of Cacai Nunes' music. - Here is a rendition of Chiquinha Gonzaga's 'GAÚCHO (Corta-Jaca)'

To end this, here is a performance of 'Um Brasil de Viola'


Friday, July 18, 2008

The Choro Genre

This time a quoted extract about the choro genre from the book, 'Choro, A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music' (2005) by T.E. Livingston-Isenhour & T.G.C. Garcia (published by Indiana University Press):

" The repertoire of early choro musicians consisted of dance music imported from Europe, especially the waltz and the polka, serenades, and other local popular genres. Over time a new genre arose, also known as choro, which combined aspects of choro performance practice with the formal and harmonic structure of the polka. Thus, we can speak of norms and tendencies in harmony, melody, rhythm, form, and structure that define the choro genre, many of which are direct outgrowths of choro performance practice. In terms of harmony, the early choro was thoroughly grounded in contemporary European practice. Indeed, the choro has never been harmonically progressive. Its attraction was in its expressive and rhythmic character and its showcasting of instrumental virtuosity. As in choro style, the distinguishing features of the choro genre are found in the melodies and the rhythm.(-) Choros are easily identified by their melodies, many of which are idiomatic to the instrument for which they were originally composed. Melodies and wide leaps, arpeggios based on the harmonic progression, and chromatic sequences are common.(...) Most choros are modeled on the form of European dances from which the genre developed. Sections of regular and approximately equal length are typical and may be arranged in simple structures such as AABB,ABA, and, most commonly example, ABACA (rondo form). Within these structures, harmonic motion is predictable.(...) Choro is, of course, more than its musical components." (item quoted, p.11-12)
Now, let the ladies show you what it's all about. - Here is a recent live TV performance by Choro das tres playing Nazareth's "Breijeiro"

To end this, here is a live performance of "Saxofone Porque Choras" by an accomplished female saxophonist, Emyllia Santos and ensemble


Friday, July 11, 2008

Violão Sete Cordas

The Brazilian 7-string guitar (violão de 7 cordas) is an acoustic guitar used primarily in choro and samba. It was introduced to Brazil in the early 20th century as a steel string guitar. The style of "baixaria" counterpoint and accompaniment technique was developed throughout the 20th century, especially by Dino 7 Cordas and Raphael Rabello. In the early 1980s, guitarist Luiz Otavio Braga had a nylon string version made, and this has become the norm for most contemporary choro musicians such as Yamandú Costa. - The Brazilian 7-string guitar is typically tuned like a classical guitar, but with an additional C below the low E as follows: C-E-A-D-G-b-e; although some musicians tune the C down to a B resulting in B-E-A-D-G-b-e. (info excerpted from Wikipedia)

It is generally accepted that the first to introduce and use the 7-string guitar in choro was Tute (Artur de Souza Nascimento, 1886-1957). Tute had an extra string (in low C) added to the normal 6 string guitar thus giving birth to the violão sete cordas. He was also stylistically important, defining the role of the accompanist with the baixarias (basslines) classic in the choro style, now adapted to the violão thanks to the seventh string. - When still very young, Tute became a member of the Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros under the conductor Anacleto de Medeiros, playing cymbals and bass drum. As a violonista, he was a member of the orchestra of the sophisticated Cine-Teatro Rio Branco, conducted by Paulino Sacramento. In one of the absences of the renowned flutist Antônio Maria Passos, he introduced the then-15-year-old Pixinguinha to the theater owners and to the conductor. Pixinguinha grabbed the gig due to his extraordinary sight-reading and improvisational skills. - As a member of Grupo Chiquinha Gonzaga with Antônio Maria Passos, Nelson dos Santos Alves (cavaquinho), and sometimes the legendary Chiquinha at the piano, Tute and the group recorded several 78 rpms for Columbia and Odeon in the early decades of the 20th century. An accomplished accompanist, Tute was often requested in early recordings. As a banjoist, he was a member of Orquestra Copacabana. As a violonista, Tute was a member of the renowned Pixinguinha-groups Grupo da Guarda Velha, Os Cinco Companheiros, Gente Boa, and Orquestra da Victor. Tute worked actively in two important radio venues of Rio, Rádio Mayrink Veiga and Rádio Nacional, from 1929 to 1945, being the permanent accompanist of the mandolinist Luperce Miranda. With Miranda, Tute accompanied Francisco Alves, Mário Reis and Carmen Miranda. (info excerpted from article by Alvaro Neder in AMG)

The best known player of the violão sete cordas probably is Horondino José da Silva (aka Dino Sete Cordas, 1918-2006). Dino Sete Cordas was the developer of the seven-string style proposed by Tute. In more than 70 years of active and uninterrupted professional activity, he accompanied uncountable important artists from several different generations and styles, arranging and orchestrating for recordings as well. His co-work with Jacob do Bandolim as a member of Epoca de Ouro and later with Raphael Rabello in a duo-setting stands out as magnificent examples of his development of the way to play the violão sete cordas, and his importance in Brazilian music tradition is still highly regarded. Read more about Dino's importance as a 7-string guitar player clicking here

Here is a video paying homage to Dino Sete Cordas

Among contemporary Brazilian artists that have further developed the playing of the violão sete cordas is Yamandú Costa. To end this, here is a video featuring Yamandú Costa and Armandinho playing "Noites cariocas"


Friday, July 04, 2008

Garoto Then - And Now.

On the 29th of June Garoto (Anibal Augusto Sardinha) would have turned 93 years of age, but sadly he only reached 39 years - a heart attack caused his premature death at the 3rd of May 1955. I read a small notice about the uncertainty of the exact date of his birth at Sovaco de Cobra. Thanks to the research of Garoto's diaries, however, it can now be settled that his date of birth was on 29th June 1915. The access to Garoto's diaries has revealed a lot of new information about the career of Garoto, documented through the excellent series of articles at Sovaco de Cobra written by Zé Carlos Cipriano and largely based on the research by Jorge Mello,'O cancioneiro de Garoto'. The first entry was launched in August last year and the series of articles have continued with (almost) weekly contributions up till now. The articles are in Portuguese, but will be available in English later - an overview of the series can be reached clicking here

After reading the mentioned small notice I reflected a little on the idea of researching info about Garoto's tour of the US in 1939-40 with Carmen Miranda and her Banda do Lua, but I haven't found detailed reports and other sources accessible at the web or elsewhere, yet. I should therefore like to encourage readers of this blog to supply material that can put some spotlight on this important chapter of the career of Garoto. If you have access to pictures, reviews and articles regarding Garoto's stay in the US 1939-40, we would love to post it at this blog. If some of you have made research already, you are invited to be a guest contributior. Your contribution will be giving you all credits, of course. Please contact us at

We know that Garoto participated in recordings with Carmen Miranda while in the US, half a dozen 78 rpms were recorded and are quite easily found on several current Carmen Miranda compilation cds. We also know that Carmen Miranda starred in her first Hollywood movie, 'Down Argentine Way', in 1940. The Banda do Lua and Garoto accompanied her in scenes of the film. I found a sequence from the mentioned 'Down Argentine Way' with Miranda singing her trademark tune 'Mamae Eu Quero' backed by Banda do Lua. In the background of the scene a guitarist is visible throughout the scene. I wonder, if this character could be Garoto?

YouTube has several uploaded videos featuring Carmen Miranda with scenes from her Hollywood produced films, unfortunately the accompanying info is scarce in many instances thus making it hard to point out which of her films the scenes are from. Anyway, I found another fragment, probably from 'A Night In Rio', where Miranda sings 'Cae Cae', again backed by her Banda do Lua that is seen in the background of the scene. The sound track pointed me to reflect that it may be Garoto playing the lead on violão tenor, but I'm not shure, as Aloysio de Oliveira also played this instrument with Carmen Miranda. Anyway, here is the scene, so judge for yourself

Since the release of the historical recordings by Garoto from the archives of Ronoel Simões a couple of years ago, there has been a growing interest in the music of Garoto around the world. Guitarist of course have for a long time been aware of Garoto's importance in Brazilian music, mainly due to the excellent research and recordings of his guitar works by Paulo Bellinati, issued in two volumes of sheet music and on a cd early 1990s, still available. I like to end this small contribution inserting a couple of examples of the contemporary conception of Garoto's music. - Here is an excellent performance of Garoto's "Jorge do fusa"

From the same performance, here is a rendition of Garoto's "Duas contas"