Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, has a rich musical heritage that includes a variety of traditional instruments.
One of the most famous Madeiran instruments is the Machete de Madeira. It is a small stringed instrument with a distinct Madeiran style. The Machete has four strings D G B D , with a body shaped like a figure-eight. It is often used in traditional Madeiran folk music and accompanies songs and dances but also melodic parts and solo music.
Another important Madeiran instrument is the Rajão. The Rajão is a plucked instrument that resembles a small guitar. It has five strings. Like the Machete, the Rajão is used in traditional folk music, particularly in the Bailinho da Madeira, a popular dance style in Madeira.
The Cavaquinho a cousin , is commonly used in Portuguese folk music.
Apart from stringed instruments, Madeira also has unique percussion instruments.
The Brinquinho is a small metal bell often played in ensembles during festive occasions. The Pandeiro is a type of tambourine that is popular in Madeira, providing rhythmic accompaniment to music and dance.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional Madeiran music and instruments, with efforts to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the archipelago. As a result, you may find contemporary musicians incorporating Madeiran instruments and styles into their music, blending traditional and modern elements.
The oldest known reference to the machete seems to date back to the early 17th century. Most probably, they are direct descendants of the Renaissance guitar, while the ukuleles are directly derived from the machetes from Madeira, created by Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias
It is easier to find historical information on Madeiran wines before 1800 than on the machete! One of the finest plucked instruments in Madeira was made by Octavianno Joao Nunes da Paixao (1812–1874).
The more I get accustomed to the sound of machetes, the more I find myself leaving the ukuleles closed in their cases. The machete is actually a different instrument, primarily due to its different tuning (DGBD). Only the Rajão has the ukulele (tenor size) tuning with an extra re-entrant D string, which gives it more possibilities for solo playing than on a ukulele.
Machetes are delicate, lightweight instruments (only 220 grams) and require fine fingertips or well-shaped and polished nails to bring out the best sound.
Regarding the repertoire, that's a different story. On one hand, all melodic scores within the range of the tuning can be played, and when combined with a rajão or guitar as accompaniment, they create a pleasant combination. As a solo instrument, the existing repertoire is limited, but that's also the creative aspect of the game.
I appreciate the concept of the early 19th century, where players mainly performed their own compositions or arrangements on the machete. This approach makes each machete player unique, distinct, and more captivating to listen to.
To preserve the tradition, private teaching of traditional instruments is available in various Madeiran towns, and classes are offered at the Conservatorium of Funchal with Roberto Moniz, Roberto Moritz, and Pedro Gonçalves, aiming to sustain interest in these plucked instruments.
Currently, the number of students in Madeira is increasing. Additionally, there are three skilled instrument makers in and around Funchal exclusively crafting Madeiran instruments by hand.
I forgot to mention the good news: you can bring the instrument on a plane without any issues, and it can even fit in a standard carry-on suitcase with its hard case included.
My new "Machete Oitocentista" made by Mário Freitas (Madeira)
There is also the Collecção de Peças para Machete 1846. 41 pieces ,Valses, polkas, bolero....for machete & guitar accompaniment. The best witness to the level that machete players heralded in the early 19th century.
Catharina Sydney Pratten
Empress Elisabeth of Austria "Sissi" playing the machete 1860
Lewis Carroll (Alice in wonderland) 1858
It has lower pitch than the 4 string machete. A very interesting instrument, all the renaissance guitar repertorium can be played on it as well as a lot of baroque guitar music.