Sylvio Fraga

Composer and poet Sylvio Fraga is the former director of the Antônio Parreiras Museum in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. This sentence should not be read as a sign of incongruence, but of scope. 

Besides, the goal of this resumé, written for a recording company´s site, will only reached if we note that what makes Sylvio´s music unique is largely the way he translates forms and dictions learned from his favorite painters and writers.

His debut album, Rosto (Face) (2012), already outlined the stylistic traits that were radicalized even further in Cigarra no trovão (Cicada in the Thunder) (2015): the broad instrumental sections spread among the verses, the unpredictability of the rhythmic keys, and the jazzy freshness of the bands, namely a trio in Rosto, and in Cigarra a quintet that soon hit the road. 

Bassist Bruno Aguilar, trumpeter José Arimatéa, pianist Lucas Cypriano, and drummer Mac Willian Caetano played with Sylvio on a “stage-truck” in 20 Brazilian cities in Rio, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais…

To follow this Carioca´s recording steps is also to experience his music´s progressive textural density. In the first album he recorded with Rocinante, Canção da cabra (Song of the Goat) (2019), the band´s organicity, reinforced by Bernardo Ramos´ electric guitar and Letieres Leite´s orchestrations, blended so well that the credits were shared with the arranger. 

Letieres stated on the occasion: “Sylvio´s work is one that most amazes me today in Brazil. This record is an important contribution to songwriting´s progress and possibilities.” Impressed by the songwriter´s rhythmic keys, irreducible to the symmetry assumed by the Eurocentric systems of musical composition, the great Bahian maestro defined him as “an unparalleled composer”. 

Such “unparalleled” composition is described in other terms by composer and singer Joyce on the back cover of Song of the Goat: “Sylvio Fraga´s music, like his poetry, has edges, roughness, nocturnal flights between Sicilia and Andalucia, and landings in Minas Gerais or Northeast Brazil.” 

Although he holds a Master´s degree from New York University, authored the books Entre árvores (Between trees) (selected by Armando Freitas Filho for the Bem-Te-Vi publishing house, 2011), Cardume (School of Fish) (7 Letras, 2015, considered by Antonio Cicero “one of best books of contemporary poetry”), and Quero-Quero na Várzea (Todavia, 2022, in press), organized and translated the anthology O andar ao lado: três novos poetas norte americanos (The floor next door: three new North American poets) (7 Letras, 2012), and wrote the lyrics to many of his songs, when Sylvio composes in partnership he most likely writes the tunes. He tends to take this approach with Pedro Carneiro (known to the public as Vovô Bebê) and has always done so with Eucanaã Ferraz and Thiago Amud, his most frequent partner. 

Robalo nenhum (No Seabass), the fourth album by our songwriter-poet-lyricist-singer, is one of Rocinante´s releases in 2022. In it, the Afro-Bahian percussiveness that Letieres had infused in the Carioca´s music was already fully incorporated, “lending candomblé temple sounds to freedom without the gravity of measure, without the gravity of discourse”, as critic Leonardo Lichote proclaimed on the back cover. 

Co-producer of the albums Bacia do Cobre (Copper Basin) by Marcelo Galter, Cangaço by Bernardo Ramos, Erika Ribeiro (Ígor Stravinsky, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Hermeto Pascoal), O enigma Lexeu (The Riddle of Lexeu) by Letieres Leite, Moacir of All the Sambas by Orkestra Rumpilezz, Síntese do lance by Jards Macalé and João Donato (with whom he started a partnership, now writing the lyrics,), and others in the pipeline, Sylvio Fraga is the artistic and creative director for the label writing to you now. But Sylvio did not write this part himself.

Photography: João Atala