A Note from Your Communications Manager, 2020 Style
As with many of you, taking up a new hobby seemed to be the thing to do during quarantine time this year. Some people baked (which I also did), some learned a new language (I’m now studying six!), or read books (did plenty of that). But in September, I finally picked up that mandolin I bought from a pawn shop six years ago. I’ve basically been shifting it from one corner to another, but now I was determined to learn how to actually play it. It didn’t take long to figure out how to pick out melodies. I had played the piano for almost three decades, but this was my first string instrument. (To be fair, the piano is also technically a string instrument, but this is the first one I’ve played that doesn’t hide the strings in a box.)
I discovered so many new genres of music that use the mandolin. There is quite a bit of Medieval and classical music written for the mandolin. Of course, there’s also bluegrass. (Fun fact: I grew up a few miles north of the famous bluegrass mandolinist Bill Monroe’s Music Park in Beanblossom, IN, but didn’t know that was his instrument until recently.) But then there’s also a lot of English/Irish/Scottish folk songs that use the mandolin. And seeing how it’s originally an Italian instrument, there are also Italian and Greek folk songs written for it. And I can’t forget two of my favorite genres: jazz and blues mandolin music. But I also learned of a Brazilian genre that uses the mandolin: choro.
Choro (“cry or lament,” also called chorinho, “little cry”) gained popularity in Rio de Janeiro, one of the musical capitals of Brazil, in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Despite its name, the music is actually lively with fast rhythms, often syncopated, and using subtle modulations and improvisations. Like American ragtime and Argentinian tango, its roots are a combination of African and European musical styles. And many of these musicians (called chorões), often merged choro with other folk music styles, like polkas, mazurkas, schottisches, waltzes, and samba.
Choro started out as an informal style of music: people gathering in pubs and backyard parties to play and have a good time. But then it took off and saw quite a bit of commercial success as it became popular throughout Brazil and beyond. A few artists are held in high regard for pushing the genre to the height that it did, including Jacob do Bandolim, Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo, Danilo Brito (pictured above), and many others. There was a revival of its popularity in the 1970s, and there are still Choro Clubs today (including several in Porto Alegre!) keeping the tradition alive.
And lastly, I thank you for continuing to support Partners of the Americans by reading this newsletter. It’s been a weird year. Who would’ve thought that our Feijoada in March would’ve been the last time we saw each other face to face? There will be many changes still ahead, but may we all virtually band together in good faith that this won’t last forever. Until then: mask up, social distance, make good decisions, and play some music.
From your friendly communications manager,