Jacob do Bandolim (“Mandolin Jacob”) was one of the most influential Brazilian composers in the 20th century. He composed a style known as choro, Brazil’s most important popular instrumental music genre, often compared to early jazz in the United States. In the 1950s, Jacob do Bandolim led a choro revival that helped make the style a central symbol of Brazilian national identity. A serious and dedicated musician, he instilled a high degree of professionalism in the traditionally relaxed music –even if he was never a professional himself (he made a living as pharmacist, insurance salesman, street vendor, and finally notary public, to support himself while also working “full time” as a musician). Jacob began his long musical career by plucking his instrument with a hairpin, and very soon developed into the greatest mandolin virtuoso Brazil has ever known.
He struggled to preserve the Brazilian roots, and fought to impose his artistic sincerity on the music industry. He left important compositions that were incorporated in the repertory of chorões. Jacob was able to achieve with his band Época de Ouro the highest level of quality. Jacob hated the stereotype of the “disheveled, drunk, folk musician” and required commitment and impeccable dress from his musicians who, like himself, all held “day jobs”.
His compositions virtually defined the choro style through the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, and he remains one of the most endearing figures in Brazilian music to this day.