Manuel Escobar got his first taste of music at the tender age of 8 in his native
hometown of Salão, Faial, Açores, when he taught himself to play the violin. Advancing
his musical skills very rapidly, by age 9 he started playing for ranchos, and was
quickly known as the youngest violinist of all the ranchos on the island of Faial.
He continued playing and perfecting his violin skills in the ranchos throughout his
teens. At age 20, during his compulsory military service, Manuel obtained a Spanish
Guitar (viola) and taught himself to play it, at first for his own enjoyment. Progressing
quickly, after 2 months he played for the enjoyment of his fellow troops as he entertained
them for their off-hour gatherings.
After leaving the service, he made the permanent switch to the Spanish Guitar and
rejoined the ranchos as a guitarist. Taking his involvement several steps further,
he also joined ranchos de natal, then elevated himself even further as he joined
the Grupo Folclorico do Salão, a Capela do Salão, and Teatros do Salão. By now,
Manuel was well known in the area for his Folklore and traditional music contributions
and his name was synonymous with the finest groups of the genre in Faial.
Upon moving to North America at age 30, Manuel (after spending the necessary time
required to resettle his and his family’s lives, of course) re-entered the musical
scene by joining various Danças de Carnaval and Teatros, which continued for many
years. His unique personal combination of warmth, an easygoing personality, and
a dedication to learn and work hard for his music earned him a stellar reputation
among the traditional music community.
Then came Fado in 1991. Just a little at first, listening to records and such. Then
a little more, when he started playing along with the records. Then a bit more,
when he stared attending the shows. He played Fado occasionally with friends throughout
the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until 2000--when he teamed with Portuguese Guitarrista Alcindo
Bettencourt--that he decided to focus his musical energies entirely on Fado. His
early shows included his old friends and Fadistas Jesualda Azevedo, Isalino dos Santos,
and Leonesa Silva. After a mere 6 months of performances, Manuel invited João Cardadeiro
to help out on bass for a couple of shows, and he never left! This trio (augmented
occasionally by Guitarrista Leonel Medeiros) performed shows for Joana Amendoeira,
Aurelio de Oliveira, and others. They also performed regularly for Noites de Fado
at La Salette Restaurant.
In 2002, Manuel triumphantly returned to his native Faial, Açores when he played
a Noite de Fados at the Semana do Mar festival in the city of Horta, backing up Joana
Amendoeira and performing with Fado musicians Pedro Amendoeira on Spanish Guitar,
Carlos Proença on Spanish Guitar, and Paulo Paz on bass.
In early 2003, Manuel and João Cardadeiro invited Helder Carvalheira to join them
at a rehearsal, and here we are today . . .