Thursday, February 16, 2012

Choro in Larangeiras

On my first full day here, I strapped on my backpack with clarinet inside and ventured to Larangeiras. There is a roda de choro in the praca sao Salvador on Sundays. Choro seems to be on a different schedule than most other things here; the choroes actually start on time! I arrived about 30 minutes after the start time and they were in full swing. About 15 people with quite a crowd around them, right in the middle of the plaza. It took me a couple songs to build up my courage but after Cochichando I went up to the flute player who seemed to be the one calling the shots. I went up to her and said "eu toco clarinete, posso tocar?" She kind of barked "sabe choro?" and then nodded when I said yes. There weren't any chairs available so I parked myself right next to her on a little brick step and squeezed into the roda.

They played a lot of tunes I knew and I had a couple of my books with me. I tried to feel out the way of things, which players were playing the melodies, how they were taking turns, if I should wait to be invited or just assert myself. It was kind of a mix. The flute took the lead and there was a trombone player who was awesome. Sometimes I'd just insert myself in a section and hopefully get a nod from one of them. Sometimes the flute player (Ana, I learned) would point to me to play the section coming up. When I didn't know a song I would try to see the page under Ana's moving flute and do my best to transpose. Otherwise I'd get up and dance with the 80 year old woman in sparkly heels and a clown wig. Did I mention it's carnaval season and all of the players had silly little hats or whiskers or funny big ears?

At the end, the group played some marchinas like 'o abre alas' which are very old traditional carnaval songs. The crowd which had really grown started to sing and sway along. It was interesting to watch but wasn't as fun not knowing the words. From the few words I understood, a lot of the lyrics sounded like old drinking songs to me. It reminded me a little of the Banda des Sans Soucis I joined in Bordeaux.

I hung around to thank the musicians for letting me play. A few of them came up to congratulate me on my playing and ask how I learned choro as a young person in California. Ana was brusk but congratulated me as well. She and the pandeiro player Marino invited me to another roda on Tues.

This choro was the morning of the day I later on paraded with Jacare and the Bambas do Catete. It's interesting to balance between these two worlds: the early morning choro players arriving on time with their sheet music in binders, and then the late night bloco drummers drinking beer during their parade and never staying in a line. I love both worlds, but if I try to keep up in both I might not get any sleep!

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