:: This article was originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Guinga in Berkeley

A moving experience for him and for us.

Daniella Thompson

25 January 2004

Until yesterday, I had never noticed that Guinga is a canhoto.

Following last night’s sold-out International Guitar Night performance at the Freight & Salvage on Addison Street, Guinga was circled by fans asking for autographs on just-purchased copies of Noturno Copacabana and the composer’s songbook, which he signed with his left hand.

Asked about it, he said that he does everything left-handed except play guitar. Having learned to play on his uncle’s guitar, he didn’t have the luxury of inverting the strings and so had no choice but to play it right-handed. “My right hand is no grande coisa,” he said, taking a moment to reflect on the beauty of a great instrumentalist’s hand movements, citing Artur Rubinstein and Hélio Delmiro as examples (Guinga watched Hélio play since he was 13).

With Harvey Wainapel, Daniella, Claudia Villela, Marcos Silva & Amy
(photo: Thais Salgado)

Long before the Freight doors opened at 7:30, a line of ticket holders had already snaked around the corner. People without tickets never made it in, clamoring for a second show that wouldn’t take place. Only a third of the audience had attended an International Guitar Night in the past, and it appeared that a good portion of those present were there for Guinga. Notable local musicians in attendance included clarinetist Harvey Wainapel, guitarist Carlos Oliveira, keyboardist Marcos Silva, and the duo Claudia Villela & Ricardo Peixoto, who are appearing today at the Jazz School in Berkeley.

With Thais Salgado, Carlos Oliveira & Harvey Wainapel

My previous estimate of a 30-minute slot for Guinga in the four-guitarist show was dashed. During the first set, each performer played three numbers. Guinga, who came on second after Brian Gore, opened with the waltz “Cine Baronesa” in a guitar-only version with none of the vocalese that states the melody in the eponymous CD. This was followed by two choros, “Choro Breve” and “Cheio de Dedos.” The crowd applauded enthusiastically, rising to its feet, and the composer was visibly moved by the warm reception. Later he told me he considered the evening a pequena vitória.

There was a lot of tuning (photo: Thais Salgado)

The second set was devoted to duo, trio, and quartet playing. Guinga played a duet with Brian Gore (“something slower I devised with Brian for a change of pace; not my composition”) and sang “Senhorinha” (“a lullaby I wrote for my daughters, who are now 25- and 22-years old”), with Andrew York beautifully playing the melody in an interval while the composer played harmony. Guinga and the amazing Pierre Bensusan played a bossa nova duet before all four guitarists launched into a rousing “Baião de Lacan,” which could only have been made more so had Claudia Villela been invited to sing it on stage (“I didn’t know she was here,” justified Guinga later). Claudia tells me that she’s been singing Guinga’s compositions since 1992 (he’s also her dentist).

Both Guinga and his wife Fátima are enchanted with what they’ve seen of the United States on this, their first trip here. They’ll be back. In the meantime, we can look forward to Guinga’s new Italian CD, recorded with virtuoso clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi. It will be released on the Egea label.

Guinga & Daniella (photo: Thais Salgado)

Guinga and Fátima spent last night at the Faculty Club on the University of California campus. This landmark building was designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1902. Thus, my twin interests in Brazilian music and Berkeley architecture are at last combined.


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