I am in love with my pandeiro. It’s a humble little drum, often mistaken for a tambourine, but it holds a world of possibilities, and when it jumps in as an accompaniment, it can turn a simple song on a guitar into a party worth dancing to. I love the crunchy sound you get from tapping the rim of the drum where the platinelas or jingles are mounted. I love the resonant bass you get from thumping your thumb against the face of the drum. I love how you can switch up the tones by muting the skin of the drum with your finger, like putting a wah wah pedal on your pandeiro. Part of the reason I love my pandeiro so much is because my particular drum is a beauty. It is no ordinary pandeiro. Here’s the backstory:
I look forward to pandeiro class every week the same way a kid looks forward to the family trip to six flags. But a couple weeks back, we had an extra surprise in store.
After class my pandeiro teacher, Vava, offered to take my friend and fellow student Dan and I to meet his pandeiro maker, from whom he was picking up an instrument that day. We’ve always admired Vava’s pandeiro, which is made from beautiful dark wood, with an elegant inlaid border, and has such a clear crisp and full sound, it seems to come from a different pandeiro universe than our mortal pandeiros. When he lets one of us play it, it’s like getting to sit down at a Steinway concert grand. Of course we jumped at the chance to meet his pandeiro maker, the master craftsmen, Fabiano Raposa, who happens to live right here in Florianopolis.
We drove to an older neighborhood of narrow streets that wound up and down hills, where many small old houses still had sizeable yards and accompanying livestock. Fabiano’s workshop was set next to his house and what appeared to be a miniature farm. Chickens and very impressive turkeys wandered around on the shady lawn while a horse happily grazed in a small paddock nearby.
Everything in Fabiano’s workshop was made by hand by him , his wife, or one of his sons — from the treating and stretching of the skins, to the pressing and burnishing of the platinelas, the little cymbal-shaped jingles. An array of beautiful pandeiros were set on the table before us and we got to try them all out for size and sound.
Dan, who is a very accomplished pandeiro player had brought along some cash so he could purchase one of these special instruments, and on his encouragement, I did too. On one hand, I felt unworthy of such a nice instrument, since I am just an infant in my pandeiro playing and can’t make full use of all its sonic possibilities. On the other hand, as Dan kept reminding me, a good instrument can make a big difference in your development as a player. Fabiano had an intermediate model, which to me sounded more beautiful than any pandeiro I had ever dreamed of owning, and I decided to spring for it.
Dan was right. Since getting that pandeiro, my playing has improved a ton. And I practice a lot more now, because, as mentioned earlier, I am in LOVE with my pandeiro. It just sounds so good! I can’t wait to pull it out of its little carrying case so I can listen to it crunch and thump and sing. Somedays when I come home from surfing, I play samba with my
neighbors in the backyard of the hostel (totally thrilling and amazing to be in Brazil and to be MAKING MY OWN samba music) and in the evenings around sunset, you can find me strolling along the dunes of Joaqina with my little drum, trying to hone my jedi pandeiro skills.