Jacob do Bandolim: amateur musician who instilled mandolin fashion throughout America

Jacob do Bandolim by José Ramos Tinhorão
Jacob do Bandolim by José Ramos Tinhorão
Jacob Pick Bittencourt, nicknamed Jacob do Bandolim or Mandolin Jacob, was a Brazilian musician and composer working in the mid-20th century whose music had a huge impact on all subsequent generations of Latin American mandolin performers. The main body of his works is associated with choro—an instrumental music direction considered to be the first characteristically Brazilian genre of urban popular music.
Despite the impressive number of records, Jacob do Bandolim never positioned music as his source of income while still receiving funds from his civil professions among which were a pharmacist, insurance salesman, street vendor, and notary.
Jacob do Bandolim's musical inclinations took roots in elementary school where he played harmonica and sang in the choir, but it was his blind neighbor whose violin passages kindled Jacob's musical passion at the age of twelve. Jacob's mother also had a violin which he used to self-study in a rather strange way: putting the bow away, he played the violin like a guitar and used a hairpin as a plectrum.
Very soon he broke all strings on the violin and switched to the more convenient instruments: guitar, mandolin, and four-string Portuguese guitar cavaquinho. By the age of fifteen, he had grown into an excellent musician by winning various performing competitions and becoming a permanent musician on Rádio Guanabara broadcasts.
Listen to Receita de Samba by Jacob do Bandolim:
From 1949 to 1969 he composed and recorded over 100 compositions that facilitated the choro genre revival, aiding the folk style in becoming a central symbol of Brazilian music identity. It is widely accepted that Bandolim's performing skills not only influenced whole generations of musicians but also assisted a considerable wave of mandolin fashion throughout Latin America in the 20th century.
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