The Sweet Presence of
the Chorinho in the
German Musical Scene
Beate Kittsteiner
Contrary to the samba and the BossaNova, the chorinho is still relatively
unknown in the Europe. The choro
(chorinho) appeared around 1870, when
European dances in vogue at the time, such
as the waltz, the polka and the schottische.
Rio de Janeiro was a true cultural melting-pot.
There were immigrants from various European
countries, who had brought with them the musical
traditions of their homelands.
Altamiro Carrilho
Upon this musical foundation of European tradition the
African influence was added, brought by the slaves, at the
time already in a full process of cultural fusion. From the
combination of the two musical influences, that is,
European and African, came the choro, with its syncopated
rhythm of an African flavor and its harmonies with a clear
European affinity. The music derived from this mix is softer
and more delicate that the samba, lending itself to a rich
variety of melodic combinations.
any compare the choro – and its significance
for recent Brazilian music, with the
American rag-time and its importance for jazz.
On the other hand, it is said that the primitive choro
is similar to classical music, while the more recent choro
is analogous to jazz, mainly in its potential for improvisation.
An important characteristic of the choro, which
distinguishes it from other current musical forms, dominated
by a reductionist trend, where the melody plays a
secondary role, is that the choro, with its broad melodic range,
has a surprising harmonic variation. Thus, part
of the choro’s appeal is that it allows a rich scope of
variation-improvisations, as occurs in jazz. The soloists in the
choro groups direct melodies at one another, each
one making an effort to outdo the other through variations,
in a kind of “musical challenge “. Many old choros
express this characteristic in their titles, such as
“went down, didn’t you? “ or “careful, buddy “.
Originally, the instruments used to play the choro
were the flute, the guitar and the cavaquinho
(a type of ukulele). Later, in the 20’s, the typical percussion
instruments were introduced, such as the tambourine,
reco-reco, or the small bass drum. After that, the seven-string
guitar was added, providing a better base line.
Because of my jazz background, besides playing the flute,
I introduced the saxophone into my choro group in
Munich. The cavaquinho is played by Brazilian
Fábio Block, whose father is a famous choro musician;
the guitar is played by Dieter Holisch, German,
who has a refined sense for Brazilian music; on the contrabass
we have the Spanish virtuoso Manolo Diaz.
Our group also includes two percussionists: the Brazilian
tambourine specialist Borel de Sousa and Ulrich Stach,
German, raised in Brazil, an excellent percussionist
who plays the timba in our group.
Among our main inspirers, we include composer
Zequinha de Abreu, whose Tico Tico no Fubá is known
throughout the world. We also play, among other of his
compositions, Não me toques. We also value, enormously,
the legendary composer, saxophonist and flautist
Pixinguinha, whose music is not only incredibly fresh,
but also extremely moving. We always play his celebrated
chorinho Carinhoso, a huge success, along with other
compositions of his, like Um a Zero, Os Cinco
Photo: Prensa 3
Companheiros, Teu Aniversário and Vamos Brincar.
I also venerate the old cavaquinho master Waldir Azevedo,
whose composition Brasileirinho is known all over the world.
Our group plays several of his compositions, including
Cavaquinho Seresteiro, Choro Novo em Dó, Lembrando
Chopin (as the title says, a tribute to Chopin, much admired
by the composer) and Homenagem a Chiquinha Gonzaga.
Chiquinha Gonzaga is another source of inspiration for us:
a revolutionary woman at her time (1847-1935),
not only in terms of music but also customs, and her famous
polka-choro “Atraente “, is part of our repertoire.
Jacob do Bandolim
A much appreciated composer of the 40’s is Jacó do
a true virtuoso of the mandolin, of whose compositions we
play, among others, “Doce de Coco “ and “Vale Tudo “. Among
modern choro composers, we particularly admire flautist
Altamiro Carrilho.
Beate Kittsteiner is Musicologist, saxophonist and flautist of
her group “Tocando” of Munich.

The Sweet Presence of the Chorinho in the German Musical Scene