The Brazilian Davi Lopes managed to reconcile his two greatest passions and occupations, that of a firefighter and that of a luthier. And thanks to his ability to transform destruction from fires and demolitions into material for the manufacture of high quality instruments, he has achieved that today some of his creations sound in the hands of musicians such as Gilberto Gil or Paulinho da Viola.
Although he has been making guitars, violins, kavaquiños and mandolins with noble and ancient woods for about 15 years that he rescues intact from fires and demolitions, Lopes gained unprecedented fame in Brazil this month after the release of a documentary that tells the story of the instruments that he made with the ruins of the calcined National Museum.
The second lieutenant of the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department has so far manufactured five instruments (two guitars, a mandolin, a cavaquiño and a violin) with the ruins of the oldest and largest museum in Brazil, more than 200 years old, which was reduced to rubble in September 2018 by a fire that destroyed most of its collection of 20 million pieces.
Davi produces guitars, mandolins and violins with wood extracted from the rubble of the fire that destroyed the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. Photo EFE / André Coelho
“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, such as the cavaquiño of the samba“Lopes said in an interview with EFE.
Endorsed by famous
The instruments are temporarily in the hands of famous musicians who sponsored them, such as Gilberto Gil, Paulinho da Viola, Hamilton de Holanda and Paulinho Moska, some of which already use them in their concerts, but, when the reconstruction is finished, they will be collected and exhibited as pieces of the Museum itself.
The remains of the door to the Museum’s locker, 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.
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 leftovers of a centennial piano or with wood removed from the old Mint.
“It all started with the story of being a musician. I started studying 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 in the interview he gave in his apartment in a Military Village (firefighters have military status in Brazil) and where he set up a small but very well-equipped workshop .
Davi Lopes set up his well-equipped workshop in a Military Village where he lives. Photo EFE / André Coelho
The firefighter who loves wood
“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 noble woods, “he explained.
Lopes said that already at the time he was also passionate about woods, something that 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 combine all my passions: music, instruments and firefighters. From the year 2000 I began to gather the wood from the fires already thinking about instruments and in 2007 I had the opportunity to do a luthier course in Sao Paulo where I learned the trade and the techniques, “he said.
“At the beginning, when I rescued 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. rescue, the woods found are the same ones used by the luthiers“, said.
Davi Lopes assures that the wood he rescues is the same that the luthiers use. Photo EFE / André Coelho
“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.
A hobby that became a way of life
Lopes admitted that at the beginning He worked as a luthier out of hobby and passion, but now he does it professionally and he manufactures special instruments custom-made by musicians, in which he ends up investing up to a month’s work and for which he charges prices much higher than 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.
In addition to combining passion with work, Davi Lopes is committed to adding a supportive leg of his activity. Photo EFE / André Coelho
The publicity achieved with the documentary helped him to promote his new project: the creation of a foundation in which it will offer music classes for needy minors and he will train new luthiers, “a profession threatened with extinction”.
Source: EFE / Carlos A. Moreno