Viola caipira is a ten-string acoustic guitar with five courses of strings arranged in pairs that plays an important role in Brazilian folk music. Its origins are obscure, but evidence suggests it evolved from the vihuela/viola de mano that Spanish and Portuguese settlers took to the new world (more on the Wikipedia).
For the last twenty years, the viola caipira has been getting more and more popularity thanks to talented musicians who’ve chosen the instrument to express themselves. One of these musicians is Ricardo Vignini, who’s been taking his viola to new musical horizons through very peculiar works.
Vignini recorded five albums with his band Matuto Moderno mixing rootsy country music with rock and pop. Ricardo is also the other half of the duo Moda de Rock — with Ze Helder, who also plays viola caipira — and recorded three albums with versions of rock classics for viola caipira. He also recorded an album with power trio Mano Sinistra in which his electric viola caipira takes the role of the electric guitar.
Sometimes considered “too modern” by fans of traditional folk music and “too folk” by rock fans, Ricardo Vignini fortunately doesn’t give much importance to criticisms and continues to write and record innovative music in albuns like his first solo work, Na Zoada do Arame (2010), and the more recent Rebento (2017).
On stage, Ricardo Vignini was backed only by Ricardo Carneiro (electric guitar) and André Rass (percussion), with Bruno Serroni (cello), Sérgio Duarte (harmonica) and Ari Borger (piano) as guests in some songs.
I’ve been following Vignini’s work long enough to see the evolution of his compositions over the years. This show, however, caused me a great surprise. I thought his use of the viola caipira and the traditional folk rhythms with contemporary instrumentation and arrangements was following a gradual and constant evolution until now. But when I heard “Saúvas e Quenquéns” and then the beautiful “Indiana,” I noticed a leap in both quality of the compositions and arrangements.
“Trevo” is another great song from Rebento in which the bridge between Brazilian country tradition and Indian music is accomplished with impressive ease. “BR 116” is another highlight, showing jaw dropping melodies and rock riffs. The homage to Hendrix in “Beijando o céu” (“Kissing the Sky” in Portuguese) is another well made fusion between rock and folk Brazilian music.
Near the end of the show, old school mate Sérgio Duarte climbs the stage and made his blues harp talk with Vignini’s viola caipira for two songs.
After “Se Xaxando” and “Capuxeta”, the concert was over. As the audience wanted more, though, Ricardo Vignini came back to stage with band and guests to play “O Bonde dos Fontes”, in which everyone did improvisations at will.
“Pasting” a blues phrase here, a rock riff there and playing an overdriven guitar over a traditional rhythm is kinda easy, but learning from several sources and making music that sounds as one thing isn’t for everyone to master. For a long time, Ricardo Vignini has been studying and practicing the fusion between traditional Brazilian country music and contemporary music, and has reached incredible results with this latest album.
It is easy to find Ricardo Vignini’s work on the Internet. Rebento and his projects with Matuto Moderno and Moda de Rock are on streaming platforms and You Tube. Particularly cool are the heavy music arrangements made for viola caipira by the duo Moda de Rock, such as Sepultura’s “Refuse / Resist,” and Queen’s “I Want to Break Free”. More than just playing the songs on 10-string acoustic guitars, they arrange the original song to fit Brazilian country rhythms and the viola caipira playing style.
There are more pictures of this concert on my Flickr account:
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