On Frevo Day, maestro Spok praises the music genre and says Carnival is what keeps it alive

The musician was responsible for bringing Frevo closer to Jazz and renewing the genre born in Pernambuco

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Recife (Pernambuco state) |
Spok believes that music, particularly Frevo, is a toll for social change - Reprodução/Site Maestro Spok

The 15 days leading up to the official beginning of Carnival are endless for Maestro Spok, an instrumentalist and arranger who heads the Spok Frevo Orchestra. He leads the party at various balls and Carnival previews, welcoming local and national names from the popular music scene.

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On stage, the musician's work requires physical vigor similar to that of an athlete. He leads the orchestra, plays the saxophone, sings, interacts with other artists, dances the classic frevo steps and still has the energy to embrace the audience. It all happens during performances that last two and a half hours.

He talked to Brasil de Fato after the Municipal Ball for the Elderly, an initiative of Recife City Hall, which took place last Tuesday (07).

At the party, Spok's orchestra performed a repertoire that included classic Pernambuco frevo songs and compositions by Moraes Moreira, Caetano and other icons of Brazilian popular music.

A new outfit for Frevo

Frevo is celebrated on two days: February 9 and September 14. On February 9, 1907, the Recife newspaper O Pequeno wrote the word "Frevo" for the first time. For many researchers, the day became a milestone for this music genre.

In 2007, Frevo became an Intangible Heritage of Brazilian Culture and, in 2012, Unesco’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Spok is responsible for an important moment in Frevo, adding a new musical style to the genre that is genuinely from Pernambuco, influenced by jazz and other rhythms. He has already recorded three albums (Passo de Anjo, Ninho de Vespa and Frevo Sanfonado) in over three decades of career.

He has worked with frevo icons such as José Menezes, Guedes Peixoto, Nunes, Clóvis Pereira, Duda, Edson Rodrigues and Ademir Araújo, and has featured in shows with well-known MPB artists such as Gilberto Gil, Lenine, Elba Ramalho and Alceu Valença.

The maestro is enthusiastic about instrumental music and believes it should be taught to children from an early age at school. He argues that teaching Frevo and other music genres can be an important tool for social change.

"In my life, Frevo had crucial importance in reducing difficulties, so that my dreams could become true. Everything becomes less difficult [with Frevo]," the musician explained. "I have a dream that, one day, Frevo will become a systematic school subject. This has already been done by many friends of mine who work with popular culture, but it urgently needs to be in the school system."

Spok is the founder of the Passo de Anjo Institute, an organization that provides artistic training for children and teenagers in the town of Abreu e Lima, in the Metropolitan Region of Recife.

First influences

Inaldo Cavalcante de Albuquerque, the now-renowned Maestro Spok, was born in Igarassu in 1970. He began studying music at 13 and says that, at home, he was already breathing in the atmosphere of Carnival.

"My parents were great revelers. My house has always been very festive. There was always a lot of confetti, water guns."

“Vassourinhas", a Frevo song written in 1909 by Joana Batista Ramos and Matias Rocha, was the one that sparked the teenager's interest in music. He also remembers the constant presence of the big names of Frevo in Pernambuco.

"The records of Nelson Ferreira, Levino Ferreira, Claudionor Germano and Expedito Baracho were always playing in my house. We also listened to a lot of Luiz Gonzaga and many repentistas [Brazilian Northeastern singer-poets who improvise verses while playing the guitar].”

In 2015, Spok was one of the honorees of the Recife Carnival/ Maestro Spok's website

The Frevo accent comes from Pernambuco

For Spok, playing Frevo is like speaking a language. According to him, those born in the Pernambuco state find it easier to grasp the technique and perform with the energy that the rhythm demands.

"Frevo comes from a specific place. It's no different from tango, which Argentinians know, or flamenco music, which Spanish people know. Every music genre has its own complexity, and that applies to Frevo," said the maestro.

"Any musician who plays their instrument well can play Frevo. However, maybe he or she won't be able to thrill the audience because playing it is different. To play [Frevo], you have to know the place [where you are playing], you have to know people's behavior," he says, emphasizing that playing Frevo requires more than technique: you have to have sensitivity, social experience and involvement with Pernambuco's general culture.

Despite this, Spok believes that the genre, which talks so much about nostalgia and resistance in order to stay alive, is renewing itself and finding good voices, opening up new technical possibilities and breaking boundaries within the genre itself.

"If the Spok Frevo Orchestra's work is considered one that opens doors and windows to possibilities, the new generation is opening everything up for good. It's ‘taking the roof off’ for possibilities, fusions and non-prohibitions. Everything is free now. And it's good that there is this generation that makes sure that Frevo is in beautiful, safe and responsible hands."

Edited by: Matheus Alves de Almeida