Celebration of the accordion

Great names praise the importance of the instrument in a series of concerts in Rio de Janeiro

Mônica Loureiro
A series of concerts to celebrate the accordion take place in July, in Rio de Janeiro. The festival "Sanfona Brasileira" (Brazilian Accordion) presents ten instrumentalists from all over the country. The first concert, on July 3rd, promoted a meeting between Renato Cigano and Oswaldinho do Acordeon.

The Brazilian accordion (named sanfona) is related to the English concertina. Denominated accordion, it was patented in Vienna in 1829, but only acquired its keyboard two decades later. It arrived in Brazil - where the eight bass bellows was popular in the Northeast - with Italian and German immigrants, and it slowly captivated both the lower and upper classes. According to researcher Mario de Aratanha, Luiz Gonzaga succeeded more due to the baião than to the accordion, for "the musical elite only accepted the accordion because of refined aesthetes like Chiquinho, who made Radamés Gnatalli change his opinion about the instrument, and Orlando Silveira, who expanded the choro arrangements to different styles".

The meetings of the concert series - some of which unprecedented - should demonstrate the adaptation of the accordion to the most diversified musical styles. In "O mundo é aqui", Renato Cigano and Oswaldinho showed two distinct lines. The former, from a gypsy Yugoslavian family, has performed with the biggest names in MPB. On the gig, he illustrated how the European technique and virtuosity can be adapted to the most varied Brazilian rhythms and styles. The experienced Oswaldinho, from Rio, has played on 19 albums. His proficiency at the instrument allows him to play from Piazzola and Beethoven to MPB and Northeastern music. In addition, he has performed and recorded with disparate artists like Paul Simon, Caetano Veloso and Raul Seixas.

The second concert, on July 10th, combines Renato Borghetti and Zé Calixto in "Sanfona de botão". This variation of the instrument differs in having no keyboard (only buttons) and in being more percussive, without the linearity of the accordion. Borguettinho, one of the most renowned instrumentalists of Rio Grande do Sul, has recorded 15 albums. His first disk, in 1984, was the first instrumental one to receive a golden record. Zé Calixto is one of the greatest eight bass bellows players in the country. In 50 years of forró, he has collected remarkable moments such as his partnership with Luiz Gonzaga, Jackson do Pandeiro and Genival Lacerda.

The albinos Hermeto Paschoal and Sivuca are the stars of the following concert, on July 17th ("Do Nordeste para o mundo"). Their creativity and talent need no further comments. "I’m coherent in my art. I tell my story with the accordion", Sivuca affirms. Sivuca and Hermeto will share the stage for the first time in more than 20 years. Included in the set list, the classic song Bebê, by Hermeto, Homenagem à Velha Guarda, by Sivuca, and Das Quebradas, a frevo written by both.

"O pantanal e o Sudeste" is the theme of the concert on July 24th, when Toninho Ferragutti (in charge of the direction and program of the concert series) and Dino Rocha will fuse their experiences. The first one is able to combine choro, forró, gafieira and chamamé - a rhythm related to forró, very popular in the countryside of Mato Grosso - with refined musical knowledge.

Closing the series on July 31st, Northeast and South meet in the concert "Vários caminhos". Dominguinhos (from Pernambuco) and Luiz Carlos Borges (from Rio Grande do Sul) unite their experiences with the accordion. Considered the successor of Luiz Gonzaga, Dominguinhos dominates techniques of the 48, 80 and 120 bass accordions. In his 50-year career, over 40 albums released - the latest being Lembrando de Você - he’s leaned it all. "I’ve toured with Borges, we played in Rio Grande do Sul and Argentina. But I still don’t know what our gig will be like. Since it’s specifically an instrumental concert, I should play solos and some chorinhos", says Dominguinhos. Borges is one of the people responsible for the renovation of the regional music of Rio Grande do Sul. He’s been an instrumentalist since he was seven years old (he’s now 48) and has recorded 20 albums.