The cavaquinho is an instrument of Portuguese origin, and is the highest-pitched member of the flat-bodied European guitar family. It came to Brazil as it came to other countries colonized by the Portuguese, and traveled as far as Portugal's commercial trading posts in Hawaii (where it transformed into the ukulele) and Indonesia.
In Brazil the cavaquinho played a key part on the birth and development of urban popular music since the middle of last century, both in the instrumental lineage that led to Choro, and in the vocal one that led to samba. As with many stringed instruments, the cavaquinho can be tuned in different ways, the most well-known being D-G-B-D. In Portugal one can still find:
•D-G-B-E used in Coimbra
•G-D-E-A called "malhao e vira na moda velha" tuning
•G-C-E-A used in the region of Barcelos
The tuning in fifths, as in the mandolin, is also used by some.
Although there are still great cavaquinho players such as Julio Pereira in Portugal, it was in Brazil that the instrument reached its highest degree of development thanks to musicians such as:
&bull Nelson Alves (1895/1960)
&bull Canhoto (Waldiro Frederico Tramontano 1908/1987)
• Waldir Azevedo (1923/1980) who made the cavaquinho an immensely popular solo instrument. Author of the greatest instrumental hits in the history of Brazilian Urban Popular Music.
These names, plus people like Garoto (Anibal Sardinha) and Jonas P. da Silva, helped to shape a Brazilian style of cavaquinho playing that is now beginning to spread to other countries in the world.