“Emotions are more important and not the instrument. However, I’ve settled for the seven-string guitar,” maintained Yamandu Costa, the guitar exponent from Brazil before he took charge of the stage. United for a real combo-duel between two seven-string guitars, an eight-string mandolin and a tambourine, guitarist and ‘Choro’ musician from Brazil, Yamandu Costa and his group presented the final concert of their India tour at Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati on October 23, 2009.
The one hour forty minute musical extravaganza was hosted by the Indian Council for Cultural Research, along with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Assam and the Embassy of Brazil. Yamandu was accompanied by Roberta Cunha Valente on tambourine, Danilo Ezequiel Brito de Macedo on mandolin and Rogerio Caetano de Almeida, also on a seven-string guitar. The prime focus was to present the richness of Brazil: their music. Therefore, with their typical instruments of popular culture, Yamandu and his troupe created a programme of unedited composition, sustained by the virtuosity of each one’s individual experience.
The concert began with Mafna, a solo guitar presentation by Yamandu, sporting a light blue shirt and beige trousers. Soon after he finished Choro Louco, Yamandu invited on stage fellow musician and old friend Rogerio, more casually dressed in a blue kurta and a pair of blue denims. The duo sailed on with a composition called Meiga and Quando Me Lembro followed suit. Danilo, the most formally dressed amongst them all, clad in a black suit, joined the duo with their composition called Assanhado. The trio then went on to play Retratos, where they were joined by the very charming Roberta on the tambourine. Soon after Roberta settled down, it created a different feel altogether and the percussion added a lot of colour to the musical quartet.
Yamandu is known for his Choro style of playing, which means to ‘cry’ or ‘lament’ in Portuguese. This is perhaps one of the earliest known forms of music known to Brazil and is chiefly instrumental. This was the genre that was mostly applied that evening. Cheerful, complicated and unconventional at times, with the tambourine as the only percussion instrument being used, the quartet received a standing ovation from the audience when they ended with the composition titled Tico Tico. This was the point when Yamandu and his team decided to sail again for one last bonus track IXO as a gift for the music lovers inside the packed Rabindra Bhawan. Besides Choro, Yamandu has also mastered other forms of Brazilian music like Bossa Nova, Milonga, Tango, Samba and Chamame.
The sound quality inside Rabindra Bhawan could not have been better that evening, with sound engineer Danil Lima from Brazil taking charge of the console, with expert technical support from sound engineers Jitu Neog from Guwahati and Barry from Shillong, who also chipped in with their personal gear.
Soon after the concert, this is what the magical guitarist Yamandu had to share in the green room: “The intention was to share with the music lovers of the country what exactly is Choro music.” He added, “That’s when we all decided to play a combination of fast and slower pieces and almost everything we played was an original composition.” He went on, “This particular style of music happens to be the speciality of the people of Brazil and our instruments are also very important.”
It may be mentioned here that this is the first time that the four are touring together. “We all have our own different independent careers. Moreover, we all are from different cities of Brazil and came to know each other through music, except that Rogerio and I are childhood buddies. We decided to get together to tour India,” added Yamandu. The quartet landed in Delhi and went on to play in Kolkata, Guwahati being their final stop. Today it’s a boon to have organisations like ICCR set up their office in Guwahati. I was also told that come October 31, 2009, there will be a Western Classical event with performers coming from Poland!
Music lovers who were present that evening would agree with me that Yamandu Costa looks like a teenager who’s out to have some excitement with his guitar – chubby of sorts, the silky haired musician was seen constantly shifting his feet on the footstool he used in front of him, almost dancing in his chair, breaking into a whistle in the middle of a composition. However, it may be mentioned here that Yamandu, who hails from Rio Grande do Sol in Brazil, is a remarkable talent and is one of the frontline guitar players. “I draw my influence from Radamas Gnatalli and I also studied the works of Baden Powell and Tom Jobim and developed a unique approach to acoustic guitar music,” informed Yamandu.
To add on to what might be new or unique about Yamandu, he plays the seven-string guitar (a different instrument with different sound potential) and exploits the seventh string on the low end, so that you hear two melodies or counterpoint lines and sweeping bass note swipes. The sound he delivers is an amalgam of Choro, the most played music in Brazil, with Gaucho melodies and dance rhythms producing a distinctly new sound. Most important, his style is unique and is backed up with an aggressive masculine attack, with strong, firm fingering and explosion in his execution — sheer technical brilliance. Costa also composes music for the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. I was told later by Yamandu that the instruments are all handcrafted in Brazil and as for the brand, it goes with the name of the maker. “My guitar is designed by Papalarto and it goes by his name. Similarly, Rogerio’s guitar is Edu Brito by Luthier and Danilo’s mandolin maker is Antonio Maria.”
Yamandu also didn’t forget to mention that he is thoroughly in love with the beautiful city of Guwahati and the majestic Brahmaputra river, the hills and to top it all, the greenery present all around. He went on to add, “I also quite like the climate here in Guwahati, and the people I have met are very warm hearted and these are great inspirations for the development of the arts and creativity.”
Asked about his family and interests, he said, “I grew up in a musical family with my mother, the singer Clari Marson, and my father, Algacir Costa, trumpeter, guitarist and front man of the group ‘Os Fronteiricos’. I lost my father when I was a teenager — he was stricken with an incurable disease.” The responsibility then befell on him and his guitar to provide for the needs of the family, a challenge which Yamandu met brilliantly. “I grew up in the cordial atmosphere of popular music played in Rio Grande do Sol, where Brazil is bordered by Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and my parents named me Yamandu, ‘the precursor of the waters of the world’ in the Tupi-Guarani language.”
Presently, Yamandu Costa happens to be one of the much-acclaimed guitarists in Brazil, playing a big role in popularising indigenous Brazilian folk music all over. To conclude, Yamandu is essentially a very committed musician who strongly feels that one should not forget their roots.
Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan