Reflection: Brazilian Choro Music at Queens College

I love hip-hop; I like pop, alt, and rock; I appreciate classical, and I can, in fact, tolerate country. Ultimately, I’m pretty open-minded, and I’ll listen to just about anything once – anything, that is, except for Justin Bieber.

However, my favorite genre is, and always will be, salsa. La Lupe, Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, La India, Tito Puente, Hector Lavoe – these are my idols, my teachers.

Salsa, for me, is soul-music – it strengthens me, inspires me, and challenges me. Salsa is my childhood, my grandmother, my summers and my winters; salsa is rose-tone, a trumpet, a fire, and drums, drums, drums. Ultimately, salsa permeates every aspect of my work – it is my cadence, my flesh-rhythm.

Lately, I’ve been exploring other types of Latin music; I want to broaden my horizons. Thus, I’ve dipped my toes into bachata, and I am now absolutely obsessed with cumbia. However, I am woefully ignorant of Brazilian music – or, better put, I was woefully ignorant of Brazilian music until the night of November 20.

Indeed – that night, I attended the Ernesto Nazareth 150th Birthday Tribute, a Queens College Year of Brazil Event. Here, I got a taste of Brazilian music – and what a taste it was!

Ernesto Nazareth. Image from wikipedia.com.

Ernesto Nazareth. Image from wikipedia.com.

Ernesto Nazareth (1863 -1934) was a Brazilian composer and pianist; he is best known for his choro compositions. His influences were many – he drew from African, European, and American traditions.

He served, during his lifetime, at the boundary between classical and popular worlds; now, his repertoire is a critical part of any Brazilian’s musical training. The Tribute, then, was an eclectic mix of Nazareth’s compositions – a primer of sorts on choro, Nazareth, and on the vibrant foundations of Brazilian music.

The New School Brazilian Choro Ensemble was simply fantastic; they played with sensitivity, with silvery quickness and heat. The music is itself fascinating – florid, yet languid, and absolutely ripe with improvisational wit. It is a music of mixing, of webs and crossings and meeting places; it is Brazil as rhythm, as the furtive plucking of strings.

The Ensemble. From qc.cuny.edu.

The Ensemble. From qc.cuny.edu.

On my way home, I wondered: how would I incorporate this beguiling new rhythm into my work? How would it mix with my internal salsa? I am not sure; nevertheless, I am inspired, energized, and excited. Also, I am incredibly excited about the Year of Brazil – there is much, much more to come.┬áTo learn more about the Year of Brazil at Queens College, click here; to see a calendar of events, click here.

Choro, like Brazil, and like Queens, is a mixture, a rhythm, and a movement; I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s in store.

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For more information about Ernesto Nazareth, click here.

For more information about choro, click here.

For more information about The New School Brazilian Choro Ensemble, click here.