A man named Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho (1897-1973), better known by the very Brazilian kind-of-name “Pixinguinha” was a great flutist and sax player who specialized in the Brazilian music form known as choro. Choro is a kind a chamber music, highly structured and filigreed, a specialty older music form adored by Brazilian musicians and aficionados. Pixinguinha was so good that he was sent to Paris to perform his music, where he was warmly greeted and widely praised.
He wrote a song called “Rosa” that has been recorded by many Brazilian artists, including the great guitarist Baden Powell. My favorite vocal version is by Marisa Monte, from here album “Mais” which means “more” in Portuguese. Her version features Ryuichi Sakamoto on piano. It’s an amazing melody, sounding deceptively simple but actually very difficult to perform, a hallmark of Brazilian popular music. Though it would be challenging for any singer, Marisa Monte executes it beautifully and seamlessly.
Songs like her version of this Pixinguinha classic show how the melodic side of Brazilian popular music is second to none. It has the melodies of Chopin, Debussy, or Ravel, the lush sweep of a Puccini aria. Much Brazilian music combines this rich melodic sense with lush European harmonies, often with African rhythms. Only the Brazilians could pull all these seemingly divergent musical genres together so perfectly.
Which is one reason why I’d be sure to take Brazilian music to my desert island with my solar-powered ipod or cd player.