Brazilian virtuoso's breakthrough in Israel
Few Israelis had heard of virtuoso Choro musician Guinga before last weekend, when he performed in Israel after being invited by members of the Chorole ensemble.
"At this stage of the performance, it's probably already clear to you that this fellow is a great composer," the flautist Salit Lahav gushed 45 minutes into the show. She threw an admiring, affectionate glance at the guitarist who sat next to her. Lahav's statement indicates that most of the audience did not know who Guinga was before the performance, and the show made them regret that they hadn't caught wind of his talents years ago.
Guinga, who is making his first appearances in Israel, is not one of the first names that come to mind when Brazilian music is mentioned, but the reasons for that have nothing to do with the quality of his alluring music. "Great" might be a somewhat bombastic epithet, but we didn't have to wait 45 minutes - 10 minutes sufficed to grasp that this 62-year-old guitarist, composer and singer is a phenomenal musician.
Guinga was invited to Israel by members of the Israel's Chorole ensemble, which specializes in the fast, complex Brazilian music known as Choro: Lahav, guitarist Gabriel Marques, seven-string guitarist Daniel Ring and percussionist Oded Aloni.
Cooperative ventures between musicians from overseas and local instrumentalists are not always success stories. This time, however, the collaboration has taken off nicely. Chorole members idolize Guinga, particularly his compositions; and his visit to Israel has enabled them to showcase Guinga to Brazilian music lovers in this country. With new local fans, the Chorole musicians themselves have savored his rambling-yet-flowing compositions.
The performance features Guinga's original compositions almost exclusively, and the Israeli Chorole musicians have devoted considerable thought and energy to playing Guinga's works as they were written, without imposing interpretation and improvisation on them. Guinga's works are fast-paced and complex, and attempts to render them could have degenerated into a creatively sterile exercise. But the Brazilian musician's deft virtuosity comes into play - Guinga knows how to turn complex arrangements into soft, flowing melodies.
The performance featured fast-paced compositions (played flawlessly, apart from amplification issues, by Chorole members ) along with one quiet, thoughtful piece played as a duet by Guinga and Lahav.
Guinga sang a number of songs. The first times he opened his mouth, he sang in a cracking, introverted whisper, but toward the end of the concert he sang a resounding number that seemed to blur boundaries between Brazilian, African and blues genres.
Incidentally, Guinga's name derives from the fact that his light skin fooled people into taking him for a white man, a Gringo.
Guinga with the Chorole group at the Felicja Blumental International Music Festival, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, May 18.