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  • Writer's pictureVítor Silva Rios

Three days of banjo... that was the I BANJO CAMP BRASIL!

On the 14th, 15th and 16th of January something unprecedented happened in Brazil! The I BANJO CAMP BRASIL was hosted at ART BBQ in Campos do Jordão. The event was held by fellow banjo player Wagner Creoruska, the biggest promoter and aggregator of the banjo community in our country.

Hi! I'm Gigito and I'm here today to describe a little about the three-day experience immersed in the banjo universe, at the event that was the first banjo camp held in Brazil! Conversations about a meeting of banjoists were already somewhat common in our circle, but always informal, until one day I received a message from Wagner telling me about implementing this plan and inviting me to participate. Of course I said yes!

Not long after that I was in São Paulo heading to Campos do Jordão. ART BBQ was an ideal meeting point, as in addition to being a beautiful Texan-themed restaurant, it is also a guesthouse and has ample indoor and outdoor spaces (perfect for all camp activities). In addition, the owner of the space, Luiz Rozette, is a true lover of bluegrass and music. Everything seemed to match the idea of the event very well and it was no different! The camp schedule was basically distributed between workshops in the morning, jam sessions during the day and shows during the afternoon and evening.


During the first day several banjoists arrived and settled down. Although the day with the most people was on Saturday, on Friday the event was already treated to a nice jam. It was really cool to see and meet for the first time in person so many banjoists from so many different places in Brazil (São Paulo, Paraná, Pernambuco, myself from Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Goiás... I may be forgetting somewhere else). And even cooler was seeing the joy and enthusiasm of all those present!

Also on Friday I had the duty and challenge of opening the night of shows by doing a set of solo songs. I tried to approach a repertoire that covered different contexts for the banjo that wasn't just bluegrass. It was a quick presentation that, between original songs and versions arranged for banjo, also had some special guests like my student Marcus Fiorin who played with me Lonesome Road Blues and also Wagner himself and the bass of the also incredible Ivan Valle in which we played Peaches and Cream, Little Rock Gateway and Shenadoah Breakdown. Soon after, the team of 'O Bardo e o Banjo' (Wagner/banjo, Marcus/fiddle, Ivan/ct.bass and Rodrigo/mandolin) came on the scene to rock the night with their fast and powerful sound. Even the band was to close all the shows of the three days, always stirring and causing admiration to those present.


On Saturday the day started with a workshop given by Wagner, Caio and I. The topic discussed was about the three basic techniques for the banjo, the 3 fingers style, single string and melodic style. In addition, a section was opened to ask questions and play some songs together.

The jam sessions prove to be a very interesting moment, where everyone plays the way they know how to do it best, spontaneously and without judgment, it is the moment where music is more democratic and capable of bringing people together. In the afternoon we had a fantastic show by Edu Skyliner, who together with his team João Pedro (double bass) and Sergio Janicki (fiddle), showed a huge responsibility and passion for the universe of bluegrass and American music. Not only a great guitarist, but also a great singer, he performed a show that, to our delight, seemed to have no end and in the end, it had participations that included me on the banjo, Wagner also on the banjo, Marcus Zambello on the mandolin and Luiz Rozette singing. It was an unforgettable afternoon. In the evening we had the Pilgrim Bluegrass presentation, with Caio not only playing the banjo, but also singing songs that not only encompass the bluegrass universe, but also the Christian universe, in a very well done way that leaves any admirer of both universes happy and ready to enjoy a good show. And once again, to close with an even greater excitement than the night before, we had the show of O Bardo e o Banjo. It is interesting to note that despite the event having a defined schedule, it also took on a life of its own and, in several of these moments, it was possible to see small groups of jams, banjo players exchanging experiences and ideas!


On the last day, on Sunday, we held another workshop in the morning in which we addressed topics that included study routine, difficulties and some tips. I consider this moment very important, because it was when each one talked about their relationship with the banjo and what obstacles they had at that moment, allowing a greater understanding of the profile, desires and goals of each one that forms this banjo community in Brazil. We had a farewell Jam and after another show by O Bardo e o Banjo we had the end of an event that, in addition to being unprecedented, was historic and an inspiring success for everyone who left there stimulated and already asking when would be the next one!

It is important to mention that the photographic records that illustrated this report were made by Lucas Zachi, who is also a banjo player!

It is worth mentioning that we also had the presence of some washboarders who contributed percussively to the jam sessions!

Another point to be highlighted: we had only one female banjo player present, Natália Xavier! Although we have a few more women on the banjo, Natalia was there to represent them. I hope that in the next few years we will have more female representatives, something that I consider important to value and promote!


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