When we talk about Brazilian music anywhere in the world, inevitably samba and bossa nova are some of our Brazilian beats internationally and instantaneously remembered and recognized for their originality, contagious rhythm and melody. However, except for the foreign visitors who have been to Brazil, especially to Rio, or have a Brazilian friend, not many people know about one of our musical traditions, which is a mix of European and African sounds from the 19th century, that has a very special Brazilian beat flavor.

I introduce you to a very sophisticated type of music that blends the sophistication of instruments, such as the trumpet, flute, guitar and a pint of improvisation, a type of music called “chorinho“. The literal translation of “chorinho” would be a “little cry or lament”. Though the songs in this style are a bit nostalgic, they don’t make us cry at all! In fact, when you go to bars and there is a group of chorinho (“roda de choro”) playing, you feel uplifted because of its upbeat sounds.

Chorinho is an instrumental type of music which calls for a lot of mastery on the part of the musician and always the possibility to add his touch of creativity and improvisation. Part of its sound uniqueness is given by an instrument which is typically Brazilian, called “cavaquinho”, but has its origins in Portugal. “The cavaquinho (pronounced [kavɐˈkiɲu] in Portuguese) is a small string instrument of the European guitar family with four wire or gut strings.” [Wikipedia]


I’m a lucky Brazilian. In my town, there is a place called “Clube do Choro”. It is a bar, but also a school for musicians who are really into chorinho/choro and want to practice and learn its melodic intricacies. Well, I was invited to go to “Clube do Choro” a while ago by a dear friend for my farewell party, as I was moving to the US. Nothing better than that place to keep the Brazilian beats in my mind while I was away. I knew a French guy was the special guest of the night and he would be the one performing. I decided not to tell my husband about the French detail. Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone. My husband would have said something like, “What?! A French guy playing chorinho?! We’d better not waste our time…”. Just when we were at the bar, a place full of bohemians and people who appreciate good music, I told my husband about the French guy, Nicolas Krassik, and he told me he wanted to see if the musician was up to playing our very traditional chorinho.

Nicolas Krassik gave an unforgettable performance. This very empathic French guy speaking Portuguese with an accent and giving his own accent to our music, made chorinho his own. Instead of “cavaquinho”, he masterfully used his violin, a very unusual, but perfect choice. The audience was glued to the gig. Nobody said a word, but you could see awe and appreciation in people’s faces for such a good performance by the Frenchman and his chorinho. Krassik mentioned how he felt love for our music when he went to Rio and some friends took him to Lapa, a very traditional bohemian place where the “Cariocas” gather to listen to powerful chorinho, drink beer and chat. There is no better place to get inspired and for Nicolas it was no different. At the end of the presentation, my husband waited for quite some time in a line to buy Krassik’s CD!

I am from Brasilia. I am a lucky woman for the best chorinho player nowadays, in my opinion, comes from Brasilia. His name is Hamilton de Holanda. He is simply a virtuoso when he grabs his cavaquinho and starts playing it. I’ve seen him a couple of times in Clube do Choro, but this year I went to a very special presentation in which Hamilton was launching his new CD with Yamandu Costa, another Brazilian genius of classical guitar. Here you can sample a bit of what I mean.

And here you can understand what I mean by a “roda de choro”. These are the guys who practice at “Clube do Choro” music school:

If you asked which are the most famous chorinho songs, there are many. One of the most performed and appreciated is “Brasileirinho”, composed by Waldir Azevedo. This performance by Yo Yo Ma is fantastic:

And one that I really enjoy is called “Receita de Samba”:

If you want to enjoy some more of our chorinho, access the playlist available in Wikipedia: “Notable choro compositions”. There, you’ll have a good introduction to the best of our very special Brazilian instrumental music. Or, you can ask a Brazilian!

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About the author

A proud Brazilian teaching English in Brazil, interested in cultures, languages, people and lifelong learning.