Artists You Should Know: Guinga

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Guinga is probably the most interesting contemporary Brazilian composer.  Nobody knows him here in the U.S.  That’s probably because he doesn’t record much, and his cd’s have all been imports, many of which are now out-of-print.  He performed two shows in LA, the first at MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art) the second, with Ivan Lins, at Walt Disney Concert Hall. He was born Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar in Rio de Janeiro in 1950.  His friends called him “Gringo”  because of his pale skin, and gringo in Brazilian Portuguese sounds like “Guinga”, so the nickname stuck.

He works full time as a dentist and the rest of the time he plays guitar and composes.  His guitar teacher is one of Brazil’s best:  Jodacil Damasceno. I first heard Guinga’s work on Sergio Mendes wonderful 1992 cd Brasileiro.  The song was called “Chorado” and was tucked into the back of the cd’s cuts.  Since then Guinga has put out nine albums.  His work is a dense and complex contrapuntal web.  There are many voicings for strings, guitar, horns.  Occasionally he’ll use a singer like Ed Motta or Ivan Lins.  One of my favorites, the divine Monica Salmaso, sang his composition “Senhorinha” on her wonderful cd “Voadeira”.   Leila Pinheiro’s cd Catavento e Girassol (Umbrella and Sunflower) featured all-Guinga compositions.  .  His topflight guitar work allowed him to play guitar with a lot of singers, including Beth Carvalho, Clara Nunes, Elis Regina, even Michel Legrand.

Amazing that he was able to pursue a full-time career in dentistry for over 30 years while he emerged as Brazil’s most innovative songwriter.   Below find his discography:


  • Simples e Absurdo (1991) Velas
  • Delírio Carioca (1993) Velas
  • Cheio de Dedos (1996) Velas
  • Suíte Leopoldina (1999) Velas
  • Cine Baronesa (2001) Velas
  • Noturno Copacabana (2003) Velas
  • Graffiando Vento – Guinga & Gabriele Mirabassi (2004) Egea
  • Casa de Villa (2007) Biscoito Fino
  • Saudade do Cordao (2009) Biscoito Fino

To fully appreciate his music, however,  you have to hear cd’s like Suite Leopoldina (try the song “Parsifal”) that are fully-fleshed out with many musicians playing his compositions.  I’m trying to get permission to stream something and have reached out to him on his website, but I’m told that he is extremely reclusive and shy, so I may not hear back and that means no streaming.   In all events, Guinga  brilliant musical tapestry and celebration of beauty.

Here is a link Guinga performing his song “Que Nem Manequim”, taped informally by a friend.  His voice is far from perfect, but his guitar chord progressions more than compensate.

And him working on the chords of the Errol Garner classic “Misty”: