Amy Burcham sometimes wonders if images of people enjoying Choro music paint a misleading picture. It's the kind of thing she thinks about when she's trying to get people excited about shows, and Choro das 3, a hard-touring family band representing some of the best of what Choro has to offer, is coming back to Memphis for what's become an annual show.
"This genre has its challenges," Burcham says, describing the work she's done to seed a Choro scene in Memphis. "If somebody doesn't listen to the music, they may see what looks like a tambourine and make an assumption about what kind of music this is," she says. "They see guitars and mandolins and think folk. Or they see a flute and all these South American instruments and think this music is Mexican or Cuban or something Latin. And maybe they're interested, but they think the music's inaccessible."
- Choro das 3
Burcham's a tireless advocate for Choro — the national music of Brazil. As founder of the West Tennessee Choro society, she's organized concerts, facilitated workshops and interactive performances where everybody's invited to play along. Over time, she's seen enthusiasm grow. A Choro ensemble took root in the music department at UT Martin. And, although events are occasional, local fans do show up to participate in a form that mixes classical music, jazz, and improvisational styles into a joyous, swirling fog of gypsy jazz, African rhythms, and European harmonies. It's a living tradition born in the 19th century, when the sounds of newly freed slaves collided with European immigrant traditions in Rio de Janeiro, at a time when waltzes, polkas, and tangos were all the rage.
"So it looks like another folk tradition, but it has these specific interactions with the classical and jazz world," Burcham says, ticking off names like Louis Armstrong, George Gershwin, and Chopin. "And people very rarely get a chance to hear it."