Choro, Brazil’s Inaugural Urban Music Style, Gains Nationwide Recognition

You may have heard of Brazil’s samba, bossa nova, and forro, but what about choro? The urban popular music genre was officially designated as Brazilian cultural heritage.

Choro music has a sound that is as distinctively Brazilian as a samba beat, yet it is just recently officially recognized.

At the end of February, the Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage officially recognized the instrumental genre as Brazilian cultural heritage.

The style, which is regarded as the first distinctly Brazilian form of urban popular music, originated in Rio de Janeiro during the nineteenth century.

Its survival now is due in part to choro circles, or jam groups, which convene in taverns and clubs around Brazil to play.

Every Monday or alternate Sunday, musicians gather at Serginho’s Bar in Rio’s Santa Teresa area for a jam session.

Flautist Naomi Kumamoto is a regular.

She is a former classical musician from Japan who has been in Brazil for the past 20 years.

“So I began seeking and listening to popular music from many places. I was in Japan, so I made my way down and listened to a variety of music, including Mexican, Cuban, Colombian, and Peruvian, before arriving in Brazil and discovering choro.

Pedro Aragão, a member of the circle, is a mandolin player and genre researcher.

He was involved in the movement to have choro recognized as part of Brazil’s history.

“We wrote a research ‘dossier’ supporting this point, that choro, though born in Rio de Janeiro at the end of the 19th century, became a nation wide music in the twenties and thirties and is now played all over Brazil,” he said.

Born in the nineteenth century

UNIRIO University’s campus near Sugarloaf Mountain is another popular choro destination.

Teachers here conduct weekly tuition on all of the major choral instruments.

One of the most popular among students is the four-stringed “cavaquinho.”

“Cavaquinho is small and that’s an advantage, it can be easily transported and it has lots of swing like our own Brazilian music,” Ana Rabello, a music instructor, adds.

The clarinet has played a significant role in choral music for over a century, and students are participating in the first lesson of the term.

They’re learning a composition by one of the first choral composers, Joaquim Callado.

“When I discovered out there was a school that used the choro language, I was overjoyed. I enlisted and am in love with the school. It has been two years, and I intend to stay. “It’s fantastic,” says student Vitoria Elias.

Meanwhile, a traditional choro circle is forming in the campus courtyard.

The session, led by guitar teacher Rafael Mallmith, is part of the more advanced students’ method.

The Portable Music School is at the forefront of teaching students to play in choral rather than classical styles.

The genre’s new status may result in more music schools offering this Brazilian alternative.

“Choro is more than just a musical genre; it is also a school. Choro originated in Rio at the end of the nineteenth century as a result of the resourcefulness of musicians. They heard music from Europe in a two-dimensional paper score. They heard and recreated the music, performing by ear at public events. They’d listen to music from the windows of aristocratic homes and then go to lower-class meetings to perform and re-invent it, resulting in the creation of a new genre,” explains Jayme Vignoli, one of The Portable Music School’s directors.

By midday, pupils had spent the entire morning practicing.

The next step is to play live.

More than 100 students from different levels gather in the campus courtyard.

“The ‘bandão’ or big band is a gathering of all students at the school, beginners and more advanced, all together,” explains director Paulo Aragão.

The event at UNIRIO is free to the public, thus every Saturday, choro music comes to life, sustaining the city’s instrumental music legacy.

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