Voltarol - related music

Friday, 23 October 2009

When is a viola not a viola?

In England we know the viola to be a larger kind of violin, but in Brazil the viola is a ten string guitar, with the strings in five courses of two. It is, I think, a close relative of the Portuguese guitar, but has taken on a distinctly Brazilian identity and adherents can be found all over that country. I first came across it on a CD compilation of purely instrumental music that was recommended to me in one of my favourite São Paulo CD shops – Pops Discos.

The compilation - which came out in 1995 -was called Sem Palavras (without words) and had quite a bit of material from artists that I knew as well as stuff that was new to me.

One of the latter was a track called O Ganso (The Goose), written and performed by one Almir Sater and it grabbed my attention because it was so different to what I had come to expect from Brazilian music. The only details on the CD were of the artists and composers so I was under the impression that I had been listening to a twelve-string guitar until a couple of years later when I acquired a CD called Violeros do Brasil, and there was Almir Sater playing what I now know to be the Viola. Here's a clip of him performing the piece on a Brazilian TV show in 2008

This new CD, issued in 1999 was another Núcleo Contemporâneo production which I bought purely on the strength of the label’s track record (which I have written about before on this blog - see A random selection) and I was not disappointed. Here was a whole bunch of viola players – or violeiros – and everyone was a virtuoso. Wonderful stuff!

Then last Christmas a package arrived from Brazil. It was a Christmas present from my ex-daughter-in-law, Marilia, with whom Mrs Voltarol and I are still on the very best of terms, and consisted of two DVDs and two CDs. As Marilia has been one of my two principal guides into the world of Brazilian music (the other being Woody of Boogiewoody Blog fame), I was excited to see what gems she had found for me this time. The first thing out of the box was the Violeiros do Brasil DVD  (see picture at top of page) and it went on the player there and then. It’s a beautiful film featuring all of the artists that appear on the CD of the same name, playing and talking about their music. Each one is filmed at or near the home of the artist so there is some breathtaking scenery in with that great music. Here is a promotional video that will give you a good idea of what it's all about

I am returning to Brazil in January and had already planned to seek out some of these performers if any of them were giving concerts around the São Paulo area. Imagine my delight then when I discovered that two of them will be appearing in London next month! Myriam Taubkin (sister of Benjamin) is the director of the Projeto Memória Brasileira and was the prime instigator of the Violeros do Brasil DVD. She will be introducing a short documentary film, followed by a performance by Ivan Vilela and Pereira da Viola at Café Oto in Dalston on the 10th November. Needless to say, I have already booked my tickets. See you there!

There are also concerts in Cambridge and Whitstable. Here are the details:-

Fri 13th NOV in Whitstable, Kent - FILM + CONCERT WITH IVAN VILELA
8pm   £ 8 / £6 (concs)  St. Peter's Church, Sydenham Street, Whitstable CT5 1HN
More information: 07515 348532
Tickets from Harbour Books, 21, Harbour St & Herbaceous, Oxford St Whitstable).

MAA: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Cambridge
Downing Street Cambridge CB2 3DZ

Monday, 19 October 2009

Crossing the tracks...

Since I started working my way through the Beatles back catalogue again I have been cross-referencing various tracks with versions that I already have by other people. A quick look at Youtube revealed the fact that some of my favourites are up there so I thought I'd post a few.

First off here's Assagai performing Hey Jude. The accompanying images are a bit bizarre to say the least, but the music is great. I first put a link to this on my blog in a posting called Mama Africa part 2 back in July 2008 but I hadn't learnt how to embed the clips at that point. For more information about the band and about African musical influences in general have a look at that posting and its predecessor called - not unsurprisingly - Mama Africa part 1

Next up is the Brazilian singer Rita Lee, who first gained fame in her home country with the highly influential band Os Mutantes (The Mutants). Although she was born in São Paulo her father was American and she grew up speaking English as well as Portuguese. In 2001 she made a Beatles 'covers' album called Aqui, ali, em qualquer lugar (Here, there and everywhere), which was released in the US under the rather dreadful title of  Bossa n' Beatles. Here's my favourite track from this album - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

There is also a live version available which was recorded at a concert in Argentina which I include here, but in my opinion the original studio version outclasses it by a mile...

Finally, here's Jaco Pastorius's superb arrangement of Blackbird, from the first Word of Mouth album. It features the superb Toots Theilemans on chromatic harmonica. (See Bass thoughts for further information and clips.)

That's it for the moment. I should be back up to more regular postings again quite soon but - be warned - I have had several requests for more information about the doings in and around 'The Pastie Maker's Arms' (see Post-holiday Blues). I may well feel the need to oblige with further tales of life in Polpott from time to time...