Choro is generally considered as the first urban music genre of Brazil and emerged as a mixture of elements from European dance music (primarily the polka, but also waltz and schottische) and strong influences from Afro-Brazilian music. It is said that the earliest roots of choro music can be traced back as far as the mid 18th century Rio de Janeiro and the city’s so-called barber music. At the time, it was mostly black slaves who worked as barbers and they had often learned to play various instruments, as Brazilian barbers were expected to perform musical numbers and entertain the customers, as well as cut their hair. The music they played was originally called simply "música de barbeiros" – barber music.
Choro music adopted its definitive form during the second half of the 1800’s, when it also gained its current name (which probably derives from the word "choromeleiro", which was a synonym for “musician” in colonial Brazil). The Brazilian middle class grew substantially during the second half of the 1800’s, not least among the country’s Afro-Brazilian population. It was also among the growing middle class and newly freed Afro-Brazilians of Rio de Janeiro where choro music was developed and became popular.
Choro is a lively and buoyant kind of music, and the songs are often based on quite intricate melodies, key changes and musical structures, which require great technical skill and talent from the choro musicians. Flute, cavaquinho and the guitar have always been the most important instruments in choro. Towards the end of the 19th century, the pianist Ernesto Nazareth, who had Frederic Chopin as his primary role model, and the legendary female composer Chiquinha Conzaga translated choro music to the piano, which helped to consolidate the already sophisticated tone and address of choro music.
Composer, orchestral arranger, flutist and saxophonist Pixinguinha was the great star of choro music during the first half of the 20th century. During the 1950’s and 60’s it was Jacob do Bandolim who was the most famous musician of the genre and since the 1970’s, Conjunto Época de Ouro has been the most celebrated performers of choro music.
Examples of choro music
Click to listen:
Um Chorinho, Chico Buarque, 1967
O Bandolim de Jacob, Conjunto Época de Ouro & Morães Moreira, 2002
Ana Carolina, Conjunto Época de Ouro & Ney Matogrosso, 2002
Um aperto de mão, Conjunto Época de Ouro & Beth Carvalho, 2002
Instruments of traditional choro music
Pixinguinha, one of the most famous musicians of the choro genre.
Conjunto Época de Ouro