How fitting that my last week in Brazil was also the week of the Dia Nacional de Choro and the birthday of one of the most important choro composers, Pixinguinha. I spent that week in Rio, the birthplace of choro music, playing in a few special rodas de choro and seeing all of my new Brazilian facebook friends wishing everyone a happy Choro Day. Pixinguinha also shares his day with saint São Jorge whose feast day is cause for a national holiday, so everyone gets the day off. But the composer is regarded almost like a saint himself and both seemed to be honored equally which I thought was so cool.
The best part was the Sunday prior when my friend Leandro invited me to the first Trem do Choro. I had to meet him at the central train station at the crack of 9am. I was running late as usual which doesn’t tend to be a problem here but this time I had a train to catch. Luckily the train followed suit and we had plenty of time. We were greeted at the track by a roda already in full swing and they happened to play some of the whopping 11 songs I have memorized (hey it was only 3 songs when I arrived in Brazil!) so I was able to join in. We played as we boarded the train and kept playing the whole way, even as we got off at our destination. I think I truly hadn’t lived until I played choro and danced samba on a moving train.
Our destination was Olaria, a suburb of Rio where Pixinguinha spent most of his life. Mauro from a group called “Grupo 100% Suburbano,” a group dedicated to preserving suburban culture and music, took us on a mini tour. I didn't realize that while choro became popular as an urban music in Rio, it originated here in the suburbs. Mauro took us to what’s now Rua Pixinguinha to the house where the composer used to live. The family that currently lives there let us enter the back patio and I got to hug the tree that Pixinguinha hugged every day. Tried to soak up some hallowed choro energy. Then I shared a cachaça with my friend Abel in the corner bar where Pixinguinha used to hang out in his PJs.
After that was a religious celebration in the square in honor of São Jorge and Pixinguinha. They unveiled a plaque in honor of the composer, the pastor said a prayer, and then the crowd burst simultaneously into his famous song “Carinhoso.” We continued the tribute with a roda de choro the rest of the day in the square. I’ve already felt so lucky to be playing this music in the country and city of its birth, but visiting Pixinguinha’s place on his birthday, hugging his tree, drinking in his bar, and playing his music all day with new friends comes way closer than I expected.
|In his PJs at the bar|