Conceived, edited and translated to English by João Kouyoumdjian
Movimento Violão brings you an interview with Marco Pereira, one of the most celebrated Brazilian guitarists of today. Learn about this eclectic guitarist and his passion for versatility, composition, arrangement, teaching, and his partnerships with the biggest names of Brazilian popular Music. Check it out!
1) Besides being an acclaimed Brazilian guitarist, you are also a great composer, arranger and has a deep commitment to music education. This unusual versatility was always part of your work? Could you start by telling us how was your musical education from childhood to the present day?
I started guitar studies relatively late… I had 14 years old when I got my first instrument (which by the way was terrible…) and I was playing “by ear” for some years until I was over 17, which was when I got into a conservatory to learn music theory and engage into a more formal practice of the instrument. Nevertheless, in those initial years with the guitar I had already learned a lot about accompaniment in popular music (the Bossa Nova, with its sophisticated harmony, was the style in fashion those days) and I was already playing in groups to perform at balls. In those groups I got to the point of being “crooner” (lead singer). Those were good times, when there was no type of prejudice. Everything was a novelty and novelty was always welcome. In a certain way, I think I’ve maintained this relation to music and with my instrument until the present day. I never respected the borders and styles and I always tried to learn a little bit of everything. I wasn’t exactly pursuing a “theoretical understanding” of it, but I was rather experiencing the practicality of a certain style or music trend. This interest transformed me in an eclectic musician who can appreciate an Opera by Verdi as well as the rhythmical manifestations of Hip-Hop culture; I’m a musician who can get impressed at a Gustav Mahler symphony or with a samba sang by João Gilberto… Anyways, I think this opening for diversity led me to versatility. However, it is good to remember that, in the way I expressed myself musically I always tried to maintain a stylistic coherence that defines me.
2) The focus of the majority of guitarists who present a successful carrier is performance. However, you evidently also have a serious concern with teaching, as we can see in the work you developed in Brazilian universities and through the publication of a series of books on harmony, rhythm and technique. What is the pleasure that this branch of your carrier gives you? What are the greatest rewards?
The fact that I’ve started a late music carrier ended up generating some professional insecurity. To be honest, the option for academic education was just another “plus” in the array of the possibilities of being a professional in music. Once inside the academy, I couldn’t resist to do the best I could and in this desire to excel I realized that I could contribute with some works of didactic purpose. Without even noticing, I was totally involved in a project. That was what happened with the collection of scores from the CD “Valsas Brasileiras”, with the CD “Cristal”, with a book+CD “Ritmos Brasileiros” and with the 3 volumes + 3 CDs of the “Cadernos de Harmonia”. The rewards aren’t many if you think from the financial perspective… After all, in the digital era it’s very easy to reproduce and copy books and CDs. For every book and CD made, 100, 500, 1000 copies are released. So the pleasure relies on the actual realization of the work and also in the possibility of helping new generations of musicians and guitarists with a didactic material that we dreamed for ourselves in the past and that we never had.
3) Do you remember any special moment when Brazilian popular music spoke more closely to you and compelled you once and for all?
What defined my particular way of making music was the fact of having had, since the beginning, an education quite “chaotic”… And also, because I never believed in the borders that divide the so-called “classical music” of other music manifestations. For me, there was always good music and bad music. To my understanding, in the filter of bad music you can find countryside music of bad taste as well as a chamber piece of the young Beethoven! In addition, I thought that a carrier of a classical guitarist was too lonely. In my days as a student, the guitar was still very discriminated, both in the academic field and in the orchestral environment, or among musicians of classical education. Besides, I realized that through the mixture of some elements that belonged to my music education (Brazilian popular music, classical guitar and Jazz), could contribute in a much more effective way than just of the classical guitar interpreter. There was no “turning point” for me in regards to “popular music”. The traditional popular Brazilian music was what I heard the most when I was a child and was always part of my musical and emotional universe.
4) As an experienced and celebrated composer and arranger, what is the hardest challenge when writing music for the guitar? How do you tend to explore the acoustical and technical features of the instrument in your compositions and arrangements?
This can sound false modesty but the truth is that I still do not consider myself a true composer! I guess I have to “prove” certain things to myself so that I fell that I deserve this title. Unfortunately, in our country any idiot that makes a little commercial song is called a composer… I think that it should at least exist a little more respect with this “nobleman music title”! Nevertheless, throughout the years, I was making a series of pieces dedicated to the guitar and they have pleased guitarists of different trends. I do not have a “method” to follow to make those pieces. I always take in consideration my intuition and try never to go after a musical idea but rather let them get me… From that point on is just a matter of elaboration and development. I think that’s how things are done.
5) Among the biggest names of Brazilian popular music with whom you worked with some living legends are included such as Milton Nascimento, Paulinho da Viola, Roberto Carlos, and also included are some of the fathers of our music such as Tom Jobim and Nelson Gonçalves. Could you describe what you have learned side by side with such great artists?
Like you said, they were and are great artists! Each one with their own characteristics, potential, but everyone very special. For me it is a reason to be proud of myself, to be able to have the chance to work and record with all of them. I should, however, make here a special thank you note to the person who made most of those collaborations possible. This person was Almir Chediak. With his “Songbooks”, Chediak gave us the great chance not only to record with such marvelous artists but also to express our own musical ideas through original arrangements.
6) Your work with Brazilian guitar music took you to stages all over the world, making you sort of a Brazilian guitar diplomat. What do you think that we, Brazilians, even though presenting great potential for musicality, can learn working with foreign musicians and observing their relation to music?
Keeping eyes, ears and open mind for all types of artistic manifestations is the foundation for learning and growth. I think it is fundamental trying to look from beyond our “backyard” and, in a certain way, it worries me a little the manner with which musicians nowadays (specially those connected to Choro) close themselves to music expressions that are beyond the styled they practice.
7) With such a busy national and international carrier, do you dedicate your life only to work or is it possible to balance a personal life, such as, for instance, keep a family and a circle of friendship always close?
Music is my work but the family is my north. There has to be a manner to balance both otherwise there is no way to survive…
8) What is your schedule for 2012 in Brazil? Are you going to be showcasing new works on Brazilian stages?
It may seem as I keep an intense concert agenda but this is not true! I’m used to joke when people ask me if I have traveled a lot to give concerts in Brazil and abroad. I say: “I travel a lot more than I would like to (I love to stay at home and cook for the family…) and a LOT less that I actually need…” Anyways, still in 2012 I have plans to make a CD for the label “Borandá”, from São Paulo, and a CD of samba, with two guitars (and a lot of percussion…), in a partnership with Rogério Caetano. I made a tour of 40 days in the USA in January and have nothing planned for abroad except for France in July/August. Last month I recorded with my dear friend Luciana Souza in her Brazilian Duos III a new song dedicated to her called Dona Lu (a little joke after “Donna Lee”, by Miles Davis)
The next shows will be at the Jazz Festival in S. Luis, MA, Brazil, (May 23 and 24) and at Clube do Choro, in Brasília (June 13, 14, 15). Those shows are done in trio with my friends and wonderful musicians: Guto Wirti – bass – and Bebê Kramer – acordeão.