Performance Wednesday, November 28, 2012 | 8 PM

Paulinho da Viola

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Brazil's greatest living sambista—in his first appearance at Carnegie Hall—performs a program of sambas and choros.

El sambista vivo más grande de Brasil—en su primera aparición en el Carnegie Hall—ofrece un programa de sambas y choros.

O maior sambista vivo do Brasil—na sua estreia no Carnegie Hall—tocará uma seleção de sambas e choros.


  • Paulinho da Viola, Guitar, Cavaquinho, and Vocals
    Beatriz Faria, Vocals
    Cristóvão Bastos, Piano
    Mário Sève, Flute and Saxophones
    João Rabello, Guitar
    Dininho Silva, Electric Bass
    Celsinho Silva, Percussion
    Marcos Esguleba, Percussion
    Hércules Nunes, Drums


  • Paulinho da Viola

    An icon of elegance and originality, Paulo Cesar Batista de Faria, more commonly known as Paulinho da Viola, was born on November 12, 1942, in the Botafogo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Singer, composer, guitarist, and cavaquinho player, his initiation into Brazilian music came about primarily through his father, Cesar Faria, who was a seven-string guitar player in the highly respected choro group Época de Ouro. It was through choro-a musical genre characterized by virtuosity and improvisation, and based on such rhythms as maxixe, samba, polka, and waltz-that da Viola blossomed as an artist, due largely to his interaction and apprenticeship with Brazilian musical legends Pixinguinha and Jacob do Bandolim. Though a practitioner of choro music, da Viola is also a member of the Portela Samba School and is one of the cardinal references of samba music in contemporary Brazilian society. He is known for his collaborations with top samba composers, including Cartola, Elton Medeiros, and Candeia. With more than 26 albums released since 1965, da Viola has also been featured in documentaries like Leon Hirszman's Partido alto (1982) and Izabel Jaguaribe's Meu tempo é hoje (2003). His artistic expression of sentimentality and humanity transcends barriers of time and place.

    -Stephen Bocskay, Ph.D., Teaching Fellow of Brazilian Studies, FAS Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

    More Info

Lead funding for Voices from Latin America is provided by grants from the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sponsored, in part, by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mercantil Servicios Financieros.

Public support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Consulate General of Brazil in New York.


Dama De Espadas
Paulinho da Viola

Fernando González on Paulinho da Viola

"Meu tempo é hoje. Eu não vivo no pasado. O passado vive em mim."
("My time is now. I don't live in the past. The past lives in me.")

—Paulinho da Viola

This phrase—spoken softly, unassumingly in the biographical documentary Meu tempo é hoje (2003) by Izabel Jaguaribe—is a perfect summation of Paulinho da Viola's style: deceptively simple, elegant, and profound.

It is also a clear, succinct explanation of his philosophy regarding tradition and change. "A memory is not something that must be kept prisoner of a distant notion of the past, but a way to keep present values and events that happened in another time," he elaborates in an interview. "It's not some nostalgic notion. I have no desire of going back or reviving something that happened a long time ago. But I want to keep elements alive that have contributed to making us who we are, that have set our path."

He was born Paulo Cesar Batista de Faria in Botafogo, a traditional neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. His father, guitarist Benedicto Cesar Ramos de Faria, was a member of Época de Ouro—considered by many to be the greatest choro ensemble in history. Not surprisingly, as a budding guitarist and future master sambista, da Viola grew up alongside several of the greatest musicians of his time, including guitar virtuoso Jacob do Bandolim.

His memories harken back to some of the most creative playing and writing in popular music history. But still, da Viola believes that tradition is a living thing that is kept alive by change. "A tradition is preserved by the people as long as it has a place in the universe in which it was created," he says. "Otherwise, it's a job for historians and the curious. The tradition of samba is alive today because it continues to express the feelings of our people. But change in samba is inevitable, as it is for any living form of expression."

In fact, da Viola himself has (from time to time) strayed from samba; he notes that he has mixed other styles into his compositions, and that songs such as "Sinal fechado" and "Roendo as unhas" are "not properly sambas." But he also remarks that beyond a certain syncopation and a binary time, "there are no rules or set models, but everybody recognizes the samba by its rhythm." And ultimately, what remains at its essence is a certain spirit.

"Initially, samba might seem like the manifestation of a superficial happiness—a simple enthusiasm, but samba is not only that," da Viola explains. "Samba deals with suffering, loss, and also the pleasures of life, but does it in a unique manner, a comforting way that is often lyrical, that makes us feel better about life's challenges. That is what I want to communicate with my music."

—Fernando González is an independent music writer and critic whose work appears regularly in The Miami Herald, JazzTimes, and The International Review of Music.

Special thanks to João Rabello for his invaluable assistance with this interview.


From the film Paulinho da Viola: Meu Tempo É Hoje, Paulinho da Viola, Paulinho da Viola performs "Filosofia" ("Philosophy").

Osvaldo Golijov on the Global Influence of Latin American Music.

Latin American Music and Artists at Carnegie Hall: From the Carnegie Hall Archives.

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This performance is sponsored by Petrobras.
This performance is part of The Originals.

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