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By Naomi Orton, Contributing Reporter

Scott Feiner, Photo by Ira Fox.
Scott Feiner, Photo by Ira Fox.

RIO DE JANEIRO – The pandeiro is perhaps to Brazilian music what the saxophone is to jazz and the violin to a string quartet.

Not to be confused with the tambourine, the tension on the head of the pandeiro can be tuned, which gives the player a choice of high and low notes. The platinelas (or metal jingles) also produce a crisper, less prolonged tone than the tambourine, lending more definition to rapid, complex rhythms.

The pandeiro was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese and is typically used in traditional Brazilian music such as samba, choro, coco and capoeira. But how has an instrument such as the pandeiro come to be used in jazz music? Who is responsible for this ostensible culture clash?

Scott Feiner, a New Yorker, spent the early nineties playing guitar in the Manhattan jazz scene, where he earned a reputation as a gifted musician. He then took a break from music.

It was only in 1999 when he travelled to Brazil that he became captivated by the pandeiro and Brazilian music. The renaissance of his passion for music prompted a relocation to the seductive city of Rio de Janeiro. There he immersed himself in Brazilian culture, playing pandeiro with local musicians. Within just a few years he had become a respected pandeirista.

Scott Feiner, Photo by Leo Aversa.
Scott Feiner, Photo by Leo Aversa.

However, Feiner was not yet content. He had other ideas for the pandeiro and began developing something altogether original; mixing the unique sound of the pandeiro with the jazz music he knew and loved so well. Undoubtedly unconventional, the experiment paid off. Feiner recorded the acclaimed CD ‘Pandeiro Jazz’ in New York in 2005, including both original compositions and his own innovative take on classics by artists such as John Coltrane and Stevie Wonder.

The fruits of his labours were further rewarded when the album was released in Brazil the following year, receiving a four star review from ‘O Globo’.

‘The Pandeiro gains a new accent’ – wrote Antonio Carlos Miguel in the newspaper.

Feiner went on to release ‘Dois Mundos’ on Biscoito Fino in Brazil in 2008, continuing the inimitable sound of ‘pandeiro jazz’, only this time playing alongside Rio musicians and including reworkings of Brazilian classics. The album met further rave reviews.

“One of the best albums of the year” [Dois Mundos, 2008]” Playboy Magazine

These days Scott is considered an ambassador of the pandeiro, travelling the world and introducing people to the instrument through workshops.

He regularly performs in Brazil, the U.S. and Europe and continues to play at venues in Rio including ‘Cinematheque’ in Botafogo, where he appeared both last Friday and earlier this year. This atmospheric venue is located in ‘Baixo Voluntários’ (the lower end of Rua Voluntários da Pátria) an area of the neighbourhood which has seen a swathe of drinking dens appear in recent years, including ‘Drinkeria Maldita’ which is, incidentally, owned by the same group as ‘Cinematheque.’

Find out about upcoming local shows, and his tour of Mexico in May.

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