Brazilian Spok Frevo Orquestra is opening UT’s doors to Latin American culture and rhythmic frevo music in the days leading up to this Saturday’s concert.
The group will be preforming big band style frevo, a high-intensity jazzy musical style born in northern Brazil that has come to be synonymous with carnaval, a Brazilian celebration taking place during the Catholic time of lent, at the Bass Concert Hall.
The Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies is hosting five events this week, including dance classes and a carnaval march on Friday, entitled “Brazilian Frevo Music: From Carnaval to the Concert Hall”. The LLILAS organization hopes the events will help people understand the music and bring more students to the concert, said LLILAS program coordinator Natalie Arsenault.
“Texas Performing Arts devotes a certain amount of their season to Latin American music, and the department of Latin American studies tries to build context around one of those performances,” Arsenault said. “We want to provide some background on the culture and get people who aren’t familiar with the music excited about the concert.”
The LLILAS kicked off the events with a panel discussion on frevo Wednesday afternoon, where UT professor Darien Lamen, Spanish and Portuguese professor Lorraine Leu, anthropology professor Christen Smith and producer and journalist Flavio Andrade discussed the history and importance of frevo music.
“Frevo was a result of waves of former slaves moving from plantations to cities after the elimination of slavery,” Leu said. “The city was extremely hostile, and fervor formed a way to carve out spaces in the city.”
The music was also built on conflict and struggle, Leu said, eventually becoming associated with battles between bands at carnaval festivals where groups would compete to play better and louder than each other.
“Wars for representation were fought against an elite trying to control the musicians,” Leu said. “Frevo was defined by repression, struggle and normative creative resistance.”
On Wednesday evening, musicians from Spok Frevo met with the Austin Samba School at the Austin State Hospital Recreation Center and held a workshop with the group. About 100 members, dancers and percussionists were present for the evening.
Spok Frevo had met with jazz students earlier in the day to discuss the technical aspects of frevo, but wanted to focus on the rhythmic roots with Austin Samba, said bandleader Inaldo Cavalcante de Albuquerque.
“The soul of the music wasn’t systematically taken down until really recently, said de Alburquerque, who spoke Portuguese and was aided by a translator. “We were born and raised playing the music, learning it without going to school for it.”
De Alburquerque said by taking frevo out of its traditional setting in the pulsing streets of carnaval, he hoped to bring a different aesthetic to the music.
“The style of frevo we are playing emerged out of musicians who didn’t want to work in chaos,” de Alburquerque said.
“Frevo was born in the street and it has a close relationship with the dance hall, but we want to make it more than just street music and take it to the concert hall.”