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. To 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.

Projeto Morrinho at Queens College

I was planning to visit a few galleries this week; I did my research, prepared my notebook, and got my MetroCard ready. My body, however, had other plans, and I woke up on Friday with a major cold. Headache, sore throat, congestion – I was seriously suffering.

And so, as I was leaving the library that afternoon, I was a bit worried; I wondered what, if anything, I could write about for this blog without leaving campus. And then, as if by a potent and colorful magic, Projeto Morrinho appeared; it was a blur, a castle, a city growing out from the stone of Rosenthal Plaza. Now I knew, indeed, what I would write about.

Projeto Morrinho is an artistic recreation of a favela, and, more broadly, of Rio de Janeiro. It was built by a group of visiting Brazilian artists; this is its first U.S. installation. Here, recycled materials, bricks, plastic, and colorful styrofoam constitute a miniature city; rickety slums grow alongside skyscrapers and statues; an entire socioeconomic, political, and cultural universe is encapsulated in an arrangement of trash, of spare parts. The colors are beguiling, and yet disturbing; it is beautiful, yes, but jarringly so, thoughtfully so.

Projeto Morrinho at Queens College. Image from www.cuny1.edu.

Projeto Morrinho at Queens College. Image from www.cuny1.edu.

Projeto Morrinho inspires us to think, to reconsider our definitions of cities, and of slums; it urges to confront the realities of economic disparity and deadlock. The little favelas are dwarfed by larger structures; their frailty, and their power, is evident to us. What does it mean for a city to have slums? For people to live in slums? What does it mean to struggle in a divided society? An unequal society? What are the consequences of poverty? Of inequality, of differential powerlessness?

All art is political, but political art is rare. What, you might ask, is political art? It is, for me, art which challenges our societal notions; it is art which forces us to think about our world, and our place in it. Project Morrinho is, then, a deeply political art; it is an art of location, of confrontation, and of dialogue. Ultimately, it is beautiful, horrible, strong; it is both manifesto and masterpiece.

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To learn more about Projeto Morrinho at Queens College, click here.

To learn more about the Year of Brazil at Queens College, click here.

Definitely check this installation out – it’s right by the library!