Brazilian firefighter turns fire debris into musical instruments

a Brazilian firefighter rescues remains of fires to turn them into musical instruments of high quality, with this he combines his two passions and occupations; that of firefighter and luthier.

David Lopes rescues materials from fires and demolitions to turn them into musical instruments that are now in the hands of renowned Brazilians such as Gilberto Gil or Paulinho da Viola.

The firefighter has been dedicated to the manufacture of musical instruments of this type for 15 years, but now he has risen to “fame” for a documentary that tells the story of the instruments he made with the ruins of the calcined National Museum.

So far, the second lieutenant of the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department has manufactured five instruments (two guitars, a mandolin, a cavaquiño and a violin) with the ruins of the oldest and largest museum in Brazil, with more than 200 years, which was reduced to rubble in September 2018 by a fire that destroyed most of its collection of 20 million pieces.

“The proposal is to make between ten and twelve instruments. Five were ready. The intention is to make representative instruments of the different musical rhythms of Brazil, like the cavaquiño of the samba, “Lopes said in an interview with Efe.

The instruments are temporarily in the hands of famous musicians who sponsored them, such as Gilberto Gil, Paulinho da Viola, Hamilton from Holland and Paulinho Moska, some of whom already use them in their concerts, but, when the reconstruction is finished, they will be reunited and exhibited as pieces from the Museum itself.

The remains of the door of the Museum’s box office, which was made of jacaranda wood, were used for guitars, as well as furniture and beams made with Scots pine, yellow cinnamon and other noble woods suitable for instruments.

Davi’s work is the subject of a documentary and his instruments are already used by great names in Brazilian music such as Gilberto Gil, Paulinho da Viola and Hamilton from the Netherlands. EFE / André Coelho

But just as his work with the destruction of the National Museum became a documentary on the Globonews channel, Lopes has plans to develop other similar projects based on his works with the remains of a centennial piano or with wood removed from the old Casa de la Currency.

“It all started with the history of being a musician. I began to study music very early, when I was 10 years old, in the church I attended. And at 15 I was accepted into a music school,” said the luthier at the An interview he gave in his apartment in a Military Village (firefighters have military status in Brazil) and in which he set up a small but well-equipped workshop.

“In 1997 I did the contest to enter the fire department and working as a firefighter became a passion. I began to combine the two passions that same year, when I went to fight a fire and saw that in the middle of the damage there were intact hardwoods” he explained.

Lopes said that at the time he was also passionate about wood, something he inherited from his family of artisans, which allowed him to distinguish noble woods such as mahogany amid the ruins of old houses in Rio de Janeiro.

“As a passionate about wood, I saw that I could do something with it and join all my passions: music, instruments and firefighters. From the year 2000 I began to gather wood from fires already thinking about instruments and in 2007 I had the opportunity to do a luthier course in Sao Paulo in which I learned the trade and the techniques, “he said.

“At the beginning, when I was rescuing wood from fires, the other firefighters and even the musicians told me that it would not work to make noble instruments, that I was crazy. But the fact is that, although there is an intense job of cleaning and rescue, the woods found are the same ones used by the luthiers, “he said.

“Later, when I began to show them the instruments that I made with the damage, they began to support me and give me wood that they are finding,” he added, referring to his colleagues.

Lopes admitted that at the beginning he worked as a luthier out of hobby and passion, but now he does it professionally and manufactures special instruments custom-made by musicians, in which he ends up investing up to a month’s work and for which he charges much higher prices. to those of the market.

He recalled that the night of the fire at the National Museum he was resting and that, when he found out at home, he went to work. “I went to the barracks, put on my uniform and went to help rescue as much as possible,” he said.

“At that time the intention was to save the objects but that same day I had the idea to do something with what was left over, to make some instruments and sell them to help rebuild the museum,” he said.

The publicity obtained with the documentary helped him to promote his new project: the creation of a foundation in which he will offer music classes for needy minors and train new luthiers, “a profession threatened with extinction”.

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