An Interview with Brazilian Guitarist and Composer Guinga



World Music Central interviewed Brazilian guitarist and composer Guinga, coinciding with his December 1 debut with the LA Philharmonic and Vince Mendoza.

How did the collaboration happen?

By the occasion of a tour I did in the US in 2005, I received this invitation to present with the LA Philharmonic and all the words I could say would not be enough to express my emotion about this invitation.

There have been other guitar and orchestra collaborations. What is the significance of this collaboration?

I have already done some concerts with orchestras in Brazil and this kind of work is the one which takes my music to a universe beyond any limits, where my music seems to be free to express itself exactly as I imagine it when I create and reach people’s hearts directly, without obstacles.

What language do you use to communicate?

I speak only Portuguese and really few words in English.

In the past you have said you are better at writing songs, will this work be instrumental?

I really think that a song written with inspiration and emotion is something extraordinary, that admits to be performed with only voice and guitar or by a whole orchestra. I do not consider myself a good singer, but I think I can be a good singer of my own songs, in the aspect of transmitting the emotion the song contains. So, I always try to sing some of my songs; it’s important for me. And I’ll try to do so in the concert with LA Philharmonic.

Is this a one time event or will this format be taken to other cities?

It’s a special event that I hope can be repeated many times in my career.

What songwriting techniques or processes do you use?

I have to tell you that my music has always been the result of only three things: inspiration, intuition and hard work.

How many songs did you compose?

Around 500 songs, but some of them I just “throw away”, when I think they are not good enough. I can’t play or record a composition if It doesn’t touch me.

Which are your main sources of inspiration?

There are two things that I use as inspiration to my music. One is my own life, everything I’ve already lived, bad and good moments. The other thing is exercise listening the great music everyday in my life, if it’s possible; try always to understand and feel what the great composers did.

What other guitarists do you like?

Segovia, Paco de Lucía, Julian Bream, George Van Epps, Augustin Barrios, Baden Powell, Hélio Delmiro, Dilermando Reis, Garoto, Marcus Tardelli, Lula Galvão and many, many others.

How many guitars do you have?

I have 3 acoustic guitars and 2 electro-acoustic guitars.

Which is your favorite guitar?

Romanillos is my favorite.

Who are your favorite guitar makers?

Romanillos, Fleta, Rubio, Hauser, Thomas Humphrey. In Brazil, Lineu Bravo, Jó Nunes and Gianinni (I have one guitar from each of them).

Has traveling with guitars become more difficult due to airline security?

It became much more difficult. The moment I have to leave my guitar by the check in is very hard and sad to me. I’d like to carry it with me always if I could.

Could you talk about your biography and songbook?

I already have 2 songbooks released here in Brazil (the last one contains the songs of my latest Brazilian album, Noturno Copacabana). And, also some years ago it was released a book about my life and career, that isn’t exactly a biography, it’s more a profile. Who wrote it was a Brazilian journalist called Mário Marques, who has always been a great admirer of my music and became a friend of mine.


Guinga - Noturno Copacabana
Guinga – Noturno Copacabana

What musicians are you working with now?

Lula Galvão – electric and acoustic guitar
Paulo Sérgio Santos – clarinet
Jessé Sadoc – trumpet

What other projects are you working on?

I have an album I recorded in Italy (with my musicians: clarinet, trumpet, guitar) which will be released next month, by Egea. And right now, I’m beginning to record my new Brazilian album which will be released next year by Biscoito Fino. Besides, I’ve just recorded another album in Italy, a duo with the clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi (with whom I already have one album, Graffiando Vento); this new album will be released next year in Europe, Canada and U.S.

Gabriele Mirabassi  and Guinga - Graffiando Vento
Gabriele Mirabassi and Guinga – Graffiando Vento

Do you still practice dentistry?

No, I’ve stopped almost one year ago. I’ve been traveling a lot; it became difficult to conciliate both professions.

Where were you born?

In Rio de Janeiro, in a poor neighborhood called Madureira.

What is your favorite meal?

I am democratic with food, I eat everything.

What music are you listening to lately?

Since I was 15 years old, what I listen the most is classical music (Bach, Schoenberg and all the greatest), but, of course, I always listen to the great composers of all times, like Villa-Lobos, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Vernon Duke, Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Kurt Weil, the French impressionists… and also contemporary composers. But I have to say that I have a deep admiration, a big passion for Russian composers (Rachmaninoff , Borodin, Prokofiev, Dvorak, Stravinsky…) Also love the Spanish composers, East European composers, American jazz and all the great popular Brazilian composers, as Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, Pixinguinha… Finally, I think what I love to listen to is GOOD music, coming from wherever it comes.

What kind of movies do you like?

Art movies: Fellini, Pasolini, Visconti, Buñuel, Bergman… And also the classics of the American movies, specially because of the soundtracks. But you can also find me watching something like Rambo sometimes, to forget reality a little.

What do you like to do during your free time?

Playing soccer with my friends and walking at the beach – I feel like a really fortunate person for living just 200 meters from the Atlantic Ocean.

What country would you like to visit?

I’d like to know better and deeper my own country.

Which is your favorite city?

Rio de Janeiro.

What was your best moment?

The birth of my two daughters.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

When I had to say to a friend called Fátima that I loved her. Some months later, she became my wife, and after, the mother of my two daughters.