I had my first Cuíca lesson yesterday with Paulinho Bicolor. This experience was more incredible than I could have imagined and it left me feeling euphoric and full of emotion.
I left in the morning so that I could stop by an electronics shop to pick up some components I need. Unlike many other cities you can still buy a decent amount of components in shops here and Rua República do Líbano has a few shops all next to eachother. It’s such a novelty to be able to browse in a physical shop. Parts procured I headed to the Cuíca Place Studio, about a 20 minute walk from the electronics shops, passing by the Carioca aquaduct and many colourful streets. Paulinho met me downstairs and we went up to his studio.
The studio is full of cuícas and other frictions drums. We started the lesson with a history of the cuíca, how it varies from other friction drums and how it has evolved in Brazil. We then looked at how to tune and tighten the skin. Eduarda and Fabiano from Novas Frequencias arrived to do some recording just as we were getting started with playing the cuíca. Paulinho started to teach me the cuíca with two motions that form the sound co cô. “Do you know what this means?” he asked. “Is it chocolate?” I replied, thinking of cacao. “A different kind of chocolate” he replied and with the giggles all round, I think you can guess what he means. I like this, it’s very easy to remember now, and probably a useful word. I practiced making the sound for a while and then practiced alongside a samba beat with a very basic co cô. I learned to make the final cô stop with more emphasis. More practice and I was introduced to the idea of moving my arms to the music even when I was not making sound with the cuíca. Paulinho then showed me how to press on the skin of the cuíca to acheive a higher pitched note and we practiced this for a while. I am so in love with this instrument. Paulinho is a great teacher – I’m going to be doing regular lessons while I am here and this is an instrument I want to build skills and then my own style of playing. I’m going to practice and also experiment with the use of pedals.
Below is some video of Paulinho playing the cuíca for us. As well as more traditional playing he is experimenting with playing through pedals. I will ask him more about this next visit. I have found a video from his instagram that I am posting below as well.