CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two Brazilian musicians who play different instruments and represent two distinct regional musical styles will perform together for the first time on the University of Illinois campus.
Percussionist Don Pandeiro (the stage name for José Don Alves) and Di Freitas (the stage name for Francisco Ferreira de Freitas Filho), who plays string instruments, will perform at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Knight Auditorium at Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana. The concert, hosted by the Center for Advanced Study, is free and open to the public.
Don Pandeiro, who is from Sao Paulo in southeastern Brazil, plays an instrument of the same name: The pandeiro is a Brazilian version of a tambourine. Don Pandeiro plays samba music, the most recognizable style of Brazilian music and a symbol of national identity. But Don Pandeiro identifies himself more by the instrument he plays rather than by a particular style of music, said Marc Hertzman, a history professor who studies Brazil and Latin America and has written a book on samba, Brazilian national culture and the country’s black musicians.
Hertzman, who has known Don Pandeiro for 15 years and helped organize the concert, praised his creativity and inventiveness.
“He can play traditional hits, but he does so many amazing things with compositions and riffing,” Hertzman said.
Di Freitas is a Brazilian musician who plays the fiddle, guitar and lute. He makes all the instruments he plays from calabash gourds and other local or found materials.
Photo by Michele Mifano
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Di Freitas plays the fiddle, guitar and lute. He grew up in a coastal city in northeastern Brazil, and his interest in music was fostered by his father, a merchant mariner who brought home records for his son. Di Freitas studied classical cello, then began working with a youth orchestra, teaching them traditional music from northeastern Brazil that they played on fiddles, fifes and percussion instruments. The fiddle music is a regional music inspired by the rural culture, and the fife music is traditional music that can be traced to the Middle Ages and Portugal, said Michael Silvers, a musicology professor who studies the musical cultures of northeastern Brazil.
Silvers, a co-organizer of the concert, has known Di Freitas since 2008 and arranged for him to come to Illinois.
Each musician will perform some pieces of music individually and they will also play together. They’ll be accompanied on piano by Marcelo Kuyumjian, a graduate student in music.
“I think it will be really interesting to see where they meet up when they play together,” Hertzman said. “They really get to showcase themselves individually, then see what happens when these two really creative guys get together.”
The two will be on campus for a week-long residency, and they are scheduled to visit music classes and a local elementary school, conduct music workshops and a master class, and conduct an instrument-making workshop at Allen Hall. They’ll have opportunities to play together during the week prior to their concert, Silvers said.
“I expect there to be a certain amount of synergy because I suspect they share some ideas about music-making, even though the types of music they play aren’t the same,” Silvers said.
Both men are artists as well as musicians. Don Pandeiro makes musical instruments, as well as sculptures from matchsticks. He created a peace monument using 80,000 matchsticks. Di Freitas makes sculptures and all his instruments – fiddles, guitars, lutes – from calabash gourds. The children in the youth orchestra he directs couldn’t afford instruments, so Di Freitas taught them to make instruments from calabash.
“He has cellos he’s made out of long, interestingly shaped calabash,” Silvers said. “Each one is also a work of visual art. They are really beautiful.”
The Oct. 6 concert, “Northeast by Southeast: A Night of Brazilian Regional Music,” is the culmination of a series of events in an initiative examining how communications and technology have affected exchanges between musical cultures.