'Live from Columbia' Series Comes to a Close with a Performance from Regional de NY
BY Angeline Dimambro, May 3, 2021
Regional de NY is the latest musical ensemble to grace Live From Columbia’s virtual stage.
The ensemble is a traditional choro group in the style of the great Brazilian ensembles of years past and present. Since 2011, their mission has been to keep the rich musical tradition of choro alive in a contemporary US context. They bring a deep love for the history of the genre together with a modern attitude towards arrangement and performance to create a style of choro that reflects time, place, and background. Pre-COVID, they also hosted regular rodas—informal jam sessions—for an extended community of musicians, contributing to the thriving choro scene in New York City.
Their recent performance marked their return to the Pop-Up Concert series, which was founded by Melissa Smey, Associate Dean at the School of the Arts and Executive Director of Miller Theatre and the Arts Initiative. Smey spoke more about the tradition of choro music in her introductory remarks: “Choro is an instrumental genre of Brazilian popular music with origins dating back to the late 19th-century. Its instrumentation is unique, and the combination of solo and rhythm instruments helped define the genre. It is a vibrant and energetic music requiring strong improvisational skills of the musicians, and constant communication between them.”
Regional de NY is composed of Vitor Gonçalves (accordion), Kahil Nayton (cavaquinho), Cesar Garabini (7-string guitar), Grant Ziolkowski (mandolin), Eduardo Belo (bass), and Ranjan Ramchandani (percussion). Over 150 attendees tuned in for the last performance of the Live From Columbia programming series, which featured pieces written by some of the earliest choro composers, including Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934). As in-program note moderator Lara Pellegrinelli highlighted, Nazareth wrote this particular piece when he was just a teenager and was known to refer to them as a kind of “Brazilian tango.” Speaking more about the choro tradition, Pellegrinelli said, “Like American ragtime, what would eventually be called choro was a hybrid that used European forms such as the waltz, polka, mazurka, and schottish as vessels for Afro-Brazilian dance rhythms.”
The inviting, informal nature of the Pop-Up Concert Series connects closely to Regional de NY’s own priorities, as one of the ensemble’s goals is to build community through their music. They often host rodas in order to “bring their music to the public in an informal setting and provide a unique opportunity for students of choro to sit in with the band and hone their craft.” While so much of their music is joyful, the genre does take its name from a word that means “to cry” or “to wail,” as Pellegrinelli noted.
The ensemble closed the evening with a rendition of composer Astor Silva’s “Chorinho de Gafieira.” “This finale gives the pandeiro, the rhythmic engine behind this musical expedition and an instrument that has come to symbolize Brazil, a moment in the spotlight,” Pellegrinelli said. Silva himself was a popular songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, and his music when played by the talented Regional de NY transports audiences to the very birthplace of the samba.
Watch Regional de NY’s entire performance here.