Featured Ukulele Artist João Frazão


A little bit about João Frazão and his Portuguese folk music.

João has spent the last 25 years playing, recording and promoting Portuguese folk music all over the world, performing his own shows as well as acting as a session musician for several main stream Portuguese artists such as Rita Guerra, Roberto Leal, João Afonso, Canto da Terra, Odagaita, Luis Marques and many others. João’s solo show is a colourful perspective of Portuguese folk, including “Fado”, played with electric and acoustic ukulele and showing several other Portuguese musical styles with African, Brazilian and Arabic flavours relating to Portuguese culture during the last centuries. João’s electric ukulele is designed by himself and built by Orlando Trindade which brings a new wonderful and unique sound.

Read about what João has to say in his Yo! Kulele interview.

1. When and why did you start playing the ukulele?

I started playing Ukulele in 2003. Before, I played guitar (electric and acoustic) in many bands as well as being a session musician for mainstream Portuguese singers since 1984. Ukulele was kind of an accident in my musical journey. I was invited to join a folk band and I wanted to, but the band already had a guitar player, to have diversity on the sound I decided to buy a Ukulele. I have never stopped playing the ukulele since, to the point in 2005, with Orlando Trindade collaboration, together we designed  my custom 5 strings electric Ukulele and it was brought to life in 2006 by Orlando Trindade.

2. What is your favourite style of music?

This is a funny question as I usually say: for me  there’s only 2 musical genres… the music I like and the music I don’t like…. There’s Rock I like and Rock I don’t like, there’s Jazz I like and jazz I don’t like, etc… so my favourite style of music, is the music I like (smiles).

Basically when I am writing music, I don’t set limits to my self or to my creativity, instead I allow all the rhythms and cultural influences Portuguese people brought from colonies during the last few centuries ( Macau in China, Goa in India, Mozambique and Angola in Africa, Brazil, East Timor ). It is also important to mention when the Arabics from North Africa invaded Portugal and Spain  from 711 ( VIII century ) until  1452… Arabic influences can easily be heard on “Fado”… the main Portuguese music style, which is now part of world humanity heritage.

So to be honest, when I listen to my own music, I can sense all these “flavours” and I would say my favourite music style is World Music as it’s how my music sounds to me.

3. Who or what has inspired you the most?

Any artist needs inspiration, a muse… I’m not an exception indeed. My inspiration comes from what surrounds me… sometimes a person… love, yes love inspires me… a musical instrument can inspire me… and lately I have been inspiring myself on ancient monuments. For instance, Conimbriga ( the name of one of my songs ) was inspired on ruins of a  Roman City in Portugal called precisely Conimbriga. I went there to make the video and in fact it’s a magic place. It amazes me to look at those ruins extremely complex to the time ( 2300 years old)… I wonder, all the stories those stones would tell us if they talked… I feel magic there and that inspired me. Lately, another song inspired me about a peculiar place in the city I used to live in Portugal. The song is called “Sal sem mar”  this means in English (Salt without sea). More then 25 miles away from the sea in a straight line, people have extracted salt from this place since 1177. A beautiful and peaceful place. The song is dedicated to every single person who has spent their life extracting salt there. Who knows what’s going to inspire me next?   :)

4. What type of ukulele do you play and why did you choose that one?

As I said before, my main ukulele is custom made, but not long ago I started playing the regular ukulele, again I wasn’t expecting to start playing it. It all started when a Chinese factory of ukuleles, after watching some of my videos on YouTube, asked me if I would produce a video playing one of their ukuleles. They sent me one, and the song Conimbriga is consequence of that request. Since then I have been writing music for this ukulele. After all that, I became official endorser for their brands “Better” and “Jmforest” in Europe. I play concert size…  just feel comfortable with it.

Recently, I accepted a challenge of one of the biggest musician/producer in Portugal to learn the “Cavaquinho”. This is a Portuguese traditional instrument that gave origin to the ukulele as we know it today. The story starts back in 1879 when a Portuguese boat carrying about 400 people to work on sugar cane fields in Hawaii and when the boat arrived this Portuguese man, João Fernandes, was so happy to have ended a 4 month boat journey, that he started playing the “Cavaquinho”. Hawaiian natives were so amazed with the man’s finger speed, that they called it ukulele… translates to English “Jumping flea”  (giggles)  you might understand why if you watch my video “Sal sem mar” where I’m playing Cavaquinho and using that technique.

5. Do you meet up or play with other ukulele artists?

Not as often as I would like. I meet up more with guitar players or piano players to back me up on my songs, as I mainly play melodies on my ukulele. I am preparing a tour/workshop to tour Europe and I hope I will have the chance to meet dozens if not hundreds of ukulele players and share music, musical knowledge and techniques.

6. What are your plans for the future?

Certainly to keep playing and writing more music. Very soon I will release my very first solo CD “Organico”. I have a tour booked in Portugal in September and we will see what else will come up. I invite you to check my website for updates  as my bookings are open at: music@joaofrazao.net

I shall say my CD is already available on my website as download version, with 2 extra songs for downloaders only. Before I go, I would like to thank you Yokulele.com team for your work on promoting the ukulele and ukulele players. Happy strumming to all !!!

Orlando Trindade ( luthier who made my electric ukulele ) http://www.orlandotrindade.net


Conimbriga Original João  Frazão ( video in Conimbriga ) https://youtu.be/3Npv8OnhTv4

Conimbriga Original João  Frazão (video in Studio) https://youtu.be/0SXrLK9t_5k

Dança do Pião Original João  Frazão https://youtu.be/uQxNYC4R2fM

Sal sem mar Original João  Frazão https://youtu.be/WRQoMQ7-YIs

Video on electric ukulele: Triste viuvinha Traditional https://youtu.be/lVwaYzNNMWc  


 João Frazão – Tours

• 2004/2008 – International tour: Canada (Chin Picnic), USA, Spain, Portugal, Azores – with Canto da Terra

• 2001/2003 – Portugal, France, Azores – with Ódagaita

• 1996/2001 – World tour (China, India, Mozambique, France, Switzerland, Spain, Canarias, Azores, Madeira) – with João Afonso

• 1996/1997 – Musical director on portuguese tour – with Rita Guerra & Beto

• 1994 – Summer tour – Portugal – with Ala dos Namorados

• 1991 – World tour (Canada, Usa, France, Australia, Portugal) – with Roberto Leal

• 1990 – World tour (Canada, Usa, France, Portugal) – with Roberto Leal

João Frazão – Musician, Composer, Producer.

• 2015 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, bass, guitars, piano, drums, ukuleles: João Frazão – “Orgânico”.

• 2007 – CD – Recording and mixing: Joana Rios – “Universos paralelos”.

• 2007 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, bass, guitars, piano,  & samplers: Naja – “Cheguei”.

• 2007 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, bass, guitars, piano, & samplers: McRubi – “Fraganacias”.

• 2005 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, acoustic ukulele: Canto da terra – “Rascunhos”.

• 2005 – TEATRO – original music for “SA Marionetas” – Muppet show (www.samarionetas.com).

• 2004 – CD – Acoustic guitar: Luis Marques – “Pela Noite Fora”.

• 2004 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, bass, guitars, piano & samplers: Beto Gil – “A Vida dá Voltas”.

• 2002 – CD – Electric bass: João Afonso – “Zanzibar”. • 2001 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, bass, guitars, piano : Ódagaita – “Histórias de Viajantes”. • 2000 – TV Soundtrack – original music for movie: “Segredo de Justiça” – RTP 1.

• 1999 – CD – Acoustic guitar: João Afonso – “Barco Voador”.

• 1998 – CD – Acoustic guitar: João Afonso – “Voz e Guitarra”.

• 1998 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, electric bass, Ódagaita – “Ódagaita”.

• 1997 – CD – Acoustic guitar: João Afonso – “Novas vos Trago”.

• 1996 – CD – Production, recording and mixing, bass, guitars, piano & samplers: “Prata da Casa”.


Joao Frazao

0044 (0) 7476 064176

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