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The Brazilian Sounds Of Choro: A Living Tradition

KUOW Photo/Dave Beck

Stuart Zobel is the guitarist in the Seattle-based band Choroloco. The band plays music from Brazil called “choro.” Stewart says the infectious rhythms and melodies of the music, and the spirit of community associated with the choro style is what draws him to the music. He says:

All segments of Brazilian society were involved with it. You had a lot of the upper classes with their pianos, playing music from Europe and fusing it with other styles. And they were actually getting together with other people outside of their class or race and playing. It reminds me a lot of old timey music and jam sessions and circles here in the United States. That happens in Rio with choro and they call these gatherings the "rodas de choro" and that means wheel or circle of choro. Anybody can show up. Any instrument can come.

Rosalynn De Roos is the clarinetist and band lead in Choroloco. She put the group together about five years ago when she was studying Latin music styles at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. Rosalynn says choro has its roots in the music of African slaves who were brought to Brazil. There are also elements of European chamber music and indigenous sounds from Brazil’s native population. She and other musicians love the style because there’s something in it from so many traditions, styles and approaches to music making. She says:

I’m constantly listening to this music, reading about it, studying up on the composers — and it is a living tradition. As a North American I’m taking this music, re-interpreting it and putting my own spin and voice on it. And so there is a marriage of the old and new. I keep it fresh and different, but also try to protect the tradition out of respect and joy and love for it.

Members of Choroloco visited us in the performance studio at KUOW this week and played two pieces from the choro tradition. KUOW sound engineer Eamon Nordquist recorded the session. Choroloco and other Brazilian bands and artists who make their home in the Pacific Northwest will play together on Friday, November 9 at 8:30 p.m. in the Royal Room in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood.