Casuarina is another name for filao, a stringy-leaved tree seen as a “pioneer” in Brazil, with its ability to adapt to nutritionally poor, salt-filled soils. But Casuarina has a second meaning: it is also the name of a street in Rio de Janeiro where four musicians began playing samba nearly 20 years ago, later touring the world with their guitars.
Rising young stars of Carioca samba in the 2000s, these are solidly trained virtuoso musicians, embodying the renewal of a samba that respects tradition and gets crowds dancing.
The quartet made up of Daniel Montes (seven-string guitar), Gabriel Azevedo (tambourine and vocals), João Fernando (mandolin) and Rafael Freire (cavaquinho, a small guitar typical of Brazilian samba) could just as well have been called Lapa, given the extent to which its history is connected to this Rio neighbourhood, known for its bars and old dance clubs that resonate to the beat of samba every Saturday night.
Casuarina has unquestionably played a role in the cultural renewal of this old Bohemian neighbourhood, notably during the memorable concert recorded by the MTV music channel in 2009 when the group’s fans filled the former Fundição Progresso factory, a famous 5,000-seat hall in the heart of Lapa.
Casuarina has been so successful in Brazil that each album sells like hotcakes. As regularly as clockwork, the four musicians have brought out a new album every two years since 2005 and have gone on many world tours. They are also highly sought-out musicians who have taken part in numerous collective projects with other Brazilian artists. Over the years, their success has never faltered, so much so that they were named best samba group of 2017 by their peers. Quite simply.