The Music of Southern Brazil

If you think of Brazilian music, the rhythmic pulsating Samba immediately comes to mind, but there's a lot more to music in Brazil than just the Samba and Bossa Nova with the music of the southern region of the country being particularly notable.  The cities and communities of the south Brazil were largely founded by Europeans. Italians, Germans, Portuguese, Spanish and Ukrainian immigrants have all left their mark on the area and this European influence is clearly reflected in the folk music of the region. The southern state of Rio Grande do Sol has the reputation of being one of the most culturally rich states in the country and has taken inspiration from many different musical styles and countries which have been blended together to make their own unique style.

The Predominance of the Guitar and the Accordion

The two instruments which dominate the Southern Brazilian style of music and dance are the guitar and the accordion.  They're used to create the fandango, the chimarrita, the malambo, the milonga, cana-verde, , chote, maçanico, chamamê, ratoeira, ranchoeira, vira and vanera, with several of these styles borrowing the guitar music of Iberia in Spain as their inspiration. This is particularly the case with the Brazilian Fandango which is very reminiscent of the Iberian version of the Fandango. Although the Brazilian Fandango may be played with or without vocal accompaniment, the instrumental version is very close to classical Iberian guitar music, requiring very dextrous guitarists to play it well.

South American Influences

In addition to bowing to the influences of the European immigrants, the close proximity of other Spanish speaking countries such as Uruguay and Argentina has also contributed to the development of the music of Southern Brazil, particularly the popular music of Rio Grande do Sul, the most southernmost state. Due to the relationship between the three countries, music and dances such as the malambo, milonga and chamamê, which were Argentine in origin, were modified and incorporated into the folk music tradition of southern Brazil. 

Malambo is characterised by its flamenco style guitar playing accompanied by lively foot stomping while chamamê involves the use of both guitars and accordions and is very similar to the music of the Argentine tango. While the Argentine version of milonga is fiery and elegant, the version played in Brazil utilises both the guitar and accordion, is much easier to dance to and is probably best described as a mixture of both the tango and forró. The Vanera is also an extremely popular style of music which originated in the habenera of Cuba before making its way to the dance halls of south Brazil in the 19th century.

The Emergence of Tchê

The 1980's onwards saw the emergence of Tchê music, a mixture of elements including the north eastern Bahian Chorinho, a variation of the Samba known as Pagode and the most popular rhythms of Rio Grande do Sul such  as the Chamamé and Vaneira. Using percussion, electric guitars and DJs, proponents of the Tchê they have sought to modernise the traditional rural music and make it appealing to the younger generations.  However, not everyone is happy about this, with the members of the Traditionalist Movement from Rio Grande do Sul attempting to prohibit the use of traditional Gaucho clothes and instruments for this genre of music.

Famous Musicians from Southern Brazil

Several notable musicians have originated from Rio Grande do Sul, such as Renato Borghetti and Jayme Caetano Braun or have become renowned for playing the Brazilian Southern folk music style, such as Yamandu Costa.

Renato Borghetti was born in July of 1963 in Rio Grande do Sul and soon became well known for his work in many different genres of music.  However he always included the traditional styles of music which came from his home town, many of which he played using his favourite instrument, the diatonic button accordion. In 2005 he was awarded a Latin Grammy for his album Gaita Ponto Com, which incorporated many examples of this style of music.

Jayme Caetano Braun is best known as a Brazilian folk musician, poet and composer. Born in 1924 he was one of the most famous poets (payador) of the Rio Grande do Sul and worked for Radio Guaiba between 1873 and 1988.

The Brazilian guitarist and composer, Yamandu Costa's preferred instrument of choice was the Brazilian seven-stringed guitar (the violão de 7 cordas). Born in 1980, he started studying at the tender age of seven under the tutelage of his father, who was the leader of a group called the Frontiersmen (Os Fronteriços), before continuing his study under Lúcio Yanel, an Argentine virtuoso who was living in Brazil. By the age of fifteen, Yamandu began studying the folk music of Southern Brazil and later became known as the musician who revived the art of Brazilian guitar music. He enjoyed playing a wide variety of styles such as the bossa nova, tango, samba, chamamé and the chorinho.