Friday, September 07, 2012

Brazilian World Music Day, Sept. 7 2012

 The ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) is a not-for-profit music archive in partnership with Columbia University headed by Director B. George . The ARC has elected September 7th, 2012 - Brazil's National Day - Brazilian World Music Day, and the project director of this initiative is the New York based producer Béco Dranoff. The ARC has encouraged organisations and other stakeholders worldwide dealing with Brazilian music and culture to contribute in celebrating Brazilian World Music Day through events and written articles with the intention of exposing the diversity and richness of Brazilian music now, in the past and in future. You can read more about Brazilian World Music Day here.
The choro-music.blogspot has also decided to contribute in celebrating Brazilian World Music Day, you can read our contribution below.
A Brazilian Musical Practice: The Roda de Choro
Once the world famous Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos was asked: What is the heart of Brazilian music? His answer was immediate: Choro is the heart and soul of Brazilian music. The answer of course pointed to the musical form known as choro since its initial founders in the last decades of the 19. Century Rio de Janeiro started to use this term about an instrumental, chamberish music most often performed by small ensembles consisting of a reed instrument, guitar and cavaquinho. However, there is more to it than this in Villa-Lobo's answer. Choro may be defined strictly as a musical form, a certain style or genre, but choro is also a way of interacting while performing (instrumental) music. In the Brazilian concept of the word choro implies a certain state of mind while playing in an ensemble, in short, a kind of social attitude to (inter-)acting spontaneously and musically at the same time. These aspects of choro undoubtly were reflected in Villa-Lobos' answer as well, but to be more precise on the aspect of performing choro in the Brazilian way, we could put the next question in natural line: What is the heart and soul of choro? The answer to that question is the roda de choro, and what is meant by this term, we shall try to evaluate below.
One of the characteristics of the traditional choro performance is that the participating musicians usually are seated in a circle or around a table fronting eachother to create an intimate atmosphere and leaving the opportunity to watch each other while playing (see photo). This was from the start the ideal setting for a roda de choro (- which literally means a circle formated of people performing choro music), and this practise is continued to this day in small clubs, bar rooms or at private gatherings. You could say that the mentioned setting of a roda de choro is well suited for this kind of chamberish music that demands concentration, great technical skills and the presence of a common feeling to (re-)create the spirit of choro.

The roda has some - unwritten - rules to be a success for all participating in the event. First rule is that the roda is open to anyone who would like to participate, there are no restrictions as to age, skin colour, sex or ability. The roda is a truly democratic union of both amateur and trained musicians getting together to play together and having a good time in an informal setting that most often also attracts an audience of friends, family and admirers - the roda is a social event as much as a musical performance and often includes nice food and drinks as a part of the game.
Another necessary condition or rule for the success of a roda is that the participating musicians accept the role of their chosen instruments in advance. There is an unspoken concensus providing each instrument a specific voice in the ensemble to create the best obtainable sound of a multi-voiced harmony. This may be perceived as a restriction laid upon each of the musicians according to the limits of their instruments in the same way as practised in professional music performance by a symphonic orchestra or a chamber string ensemble playing classics in exact accordance with a written score in the European tradition. However, the restriction is not a restriction as to freedom of expression, it is an immediate socially accepted respect for the nature and capacity of the played instrument when played in an ensemble that strives maiximum harmony. This aspect leads to the third important rule for a succesful roda de choro. It concerns the spirit of the roda.
The spirit of the roda is a friendly cutting contest where everyone gets his or her chance to show off and develop playing skills. The art of improvisation is a crucial point to a successful roda, and everybody gets a chance to improvise by choosing well known choro tunes to inspire and challenge the improvisations skills of the participating musicians. Written music, if any at all, is only a guideline for stating the musical theme being played, not a demand. This sets the individual musician free to express him- or herself in accordance with a momentary mood supported by the ensemble, the successful result is harmony and magic moments of joy and happiness among all involved.
Playing choro in a roda evokes strong emotion - the Portuguese word 'choro' means 'the act of crying', but we misunderstand the word in the context of a roda, if you connect the implied emotion with sadness. On the contrary, choro means to make you cry of joy wishing the magic moments of harmony to last.
If you are curious to learn more about the experiences of choro musicians from their participation in rodas, the shown dvd, Nas rodas do choro (Biscoito Fino), is recommended. This documentary was filmed and directed by Milena Sá between 2004 and 2008, the film was launched 2009 and the dvd-edition 2011. In about 50 minutes, the film features meetings between choro musicians mostly in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The narrative fragments are accompanied by musical examples recorded at rodas do choro with testimonials from musicians about their relationship with choro and the roda. - Testimonials on the importance of the roda like "There's no other way to learn choro. It is transmitted in this way, not much to theorize about, what counts is to sit and play together" (Luciana Rabello) underline the informal setting and point to a way of learning that dissolves a coventional hierarchy between 'teacher' and 'student' in favour of the pleasure of participating in the roda. The music unites young and old, amateurs and experienced in a mutual spirit leaving space for improvisation and experiments of the moment - a true example of 'having fun' and learning at the same time.- The documentary has subtitles in English and French.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Jo that you pointed the visitors of this blog to the Roda de choro ........... and not only on the 7th of September ...

09 September, 2012  

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