Douglas Lora is one busy musician.
This noted Brazilian guitarist belongs to four different groups: the instrumental Brasil Guitar Duo; another duo, with Spanish vocalist Irene Atienza; and Trio Brasileiro and Caraivana.
The popularity of each act means that Lora has an intensive, year-round touring and teaching schedule.
“It takes a lot of time, and I do all the scheduling myself,” says Lora, who is speaking by phone from his home near the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo.
“I have different managers for each group, so I have to have to be very careful with the dates so they don’t collide,” he adds with a chuckle.
Trio Brasileiro is dedicated to performing Brazilian choro music, and it may be the most popular of his projects. That is because of the dazzling precision and virtuosity with which they play this demanding music.
The trio comprises Douglas Lora on seven-string guitar, Dudu Maia on mandolin, and Alexandre Lora (Douglas’s brother) on pandeiro — also known as a “hand pan” and somewhat resembling a tambourine.
Trio Brasileiro will bring their skillful sorcery to the North Carolina Folk Festival in downtown Greensboro from Sept. 7-9.
Choro is a form of Brazilian instrumental music that dates back to the early decades of the 19th century. It has similarities to classical music, with a repertoire of composed pieces that often follow the rondo form and exhibit a quasi-baroque structure that draws inspiration from Johann Sebastian Bach.
“Choro is very rich material for any instrumentalist,” says Lora, “because the repertoire contains all technical aspects that you have to develop when you learn an instrument.”
Despite its formal demands, at its core, choro is a joyfully social form of instrumental music that has traditionally been played on street corners and in bars, clubs and gathering places around Brazil. Choro has been called Brazil’s first indigenous form of popular music.
Lora, who is 34, is an unabashed choro scholar and enthusiast. He plays and teaches it. With Trio Brasileiro, he endeavors to both preserve and expand the style.
When it first appeared in Brazil in the 1800s, choro reflected myriad musical and cultural influences from Europe (especially Portugal, which colonized Brazil) and Africa (from which slaves were imported).
“Brazilian music tends to absorb all the influences that have come from Europe since the beginning of the colonialization period — the polkas, the mazurkas, the waltzes,” explains Lora. “Nowadays there’s also a lot of jazz influence in choro music.”
“There’s this characteristic of absorbing all these influences without losing choro’s identity and personality,” he adds.
Lora also stresses the significance of African rhythms, which created the collision with European forms that gave choro its distinctive character.
“They say that slaves in Brazil were allowed to exercise their rituals more than other places in North America,” notes Lora. “There was more tolerance for their gatherings and religious rituals, so that’s why the music in Brazil is more syncopated and closer to the African style than other places.”
You can hear the fusion of styles and cultures in choro, which has been likened to early New Orleans jazz and ragtime music.
“It does relate to New Orleans because it’s really the same region,” says Lora. “I think we all have that in the Americas: the mix of African music, European music and little bits of the native Indians. But it has resulted in different styles, and it’s fascinating to theorize about that.”
“We’ve been teaching choro music in the U.S., and of course when you teach, you learn a lot as well,” he adds. “The history behind all this music is incredible.”
Though he grew up in Brazil, Lora has significant ties to the U.S. He was, in fact, born in Washington, D.C., and possesses dual Brazilian and U.S. citizenship.
Lora earned his master’s degree in musical performance at the University of Miami, and he lived for a year in New York City. These days, Lora spends considerable time touring and teaching in the U.S.
“Since 2006, I’ve been traveling there very frequently with Trio Brasileiro and the Brasil Guitar Duo,” he says. “I’m in the States a lot.”
The popularity of Trio Brasileiro got a major boost last year when “Rosa de Ventos,” their 2016 collaboration with Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen, earned a Grammy nomination for Best World Music Album.
A standout piece on the recording called “Choro Pesado” is a remarkable exercise in speed, intensity and virtuosity. It was actually included on two albums, “Rosa de Ventos” and “Caminho do Meio.”
“It means ‘heavy choro,’” says Lora. “All three of us — Alexandre, Dudu and myself — started playing music when we were very young, and we used to play heavy metal rock and roll.”
He chuckles at my incredulity.
“Oh, yes, for many years!” he says. “‘Choro Pesado’ was a collaboration between me and Dudu, and we wanted to create that feeling of playing heavy metal on these acoustic instruments.”
“Playing heavy metal was very important in our music formation at that time,” he concludes. “I think it’s important for the young musician to go through all the phases, you know?”