Arts & Life

Artist strings instruments in a different way

Rhythmic melodies turned heads and drew a sizeable crowd in the Max L. Gatov Gallery West, where people came to experience “Saudades: Crafting Samba.”

Graduate student Daniel Hilbert’s MFA thesis exhibition spread a little culture and brought smiles to everyone in the room with a live Samba band. The show was part of a live audio and video recording that featured the Samba performers playing instruments that Hilbert crafted himself.

Hilbert became captivated with Samba music when he took a trip last summer to Salvador da Bahia, a city located in Northeastern Brazil, where he was taking Portuguese lessons.

“Every Sunday, [the locals] would bring me to these Samba circles that would happen all over the community,” Hilbert said. “They were just magical experiences, and there was something about them that really resonated with me. “

Being half Portugeuese, Hilbert said when he was in Salvador da Bahia, he was reconnecting half of his identity. He was particularly drawn to the culture through the Samba music.

“I was there, I was inspired, and I was moved by the music, and I was also moved by the culture in general,” Hilbert said.
Hilbert wanted to find a way to connect even more with the Samba music, despite his lack of musical talent.

“I’ve always loved music and never [been] able to play music myself,” Hilbert said.

But that didn’t stop him from finding a way to make himself a part of the Salvadorian culture.

“I sort of said to myself, ‘Hey, I might not be able to play music, but I can make the instruments,'” he said.

“Saudades: Crafting Samba” features five instruments that Hilbert made.

He started his crafting with the beautifully made steel-string guitar. According to Hilbert, he built the guitar at a workshop in Portland, Oreg. in just two weeks, despite not having any experience as a Luthier, or someone who makes string instruments.

“That really got the ball rolling. It emboldened me; it gave me confidence,” Hilbert said.

From there, he created a kavakino, a steel-stringed relative of the ukulele, a pandetto, a type of tambourine with a tunable head and a Brazilian tambourine.

The Samba guitarist, Dennis Wilson, said that Hilbert “really meticulously balanced everything so perfect.”

The art in “Saudades: Crafting Samba” can be found in its entirety.

“A big part of [my exhibit] is craft, but there’s this other component, which I think is interaction with the musicians,” Hilbert said. “Then there’s the recordings we’re doing right now.”

Hilbert said he didn’t want to dictate or prescribe anything for his viewers to take away from the show, but it was clear that everyone who attended was delighted and enchanted with the Samba music, instruments and culture.

“Saudades: Crafting Samba” will be available for viewing Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m., and on Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m. in the Max L. Gatov Gallery West located on upper campus.

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