This is a short summary of one of the articles from Webzine SILKROADIA VOL.4 NO.1. For more specialized information, please download our Webzine and read "The 19th Century Machete from Madeira Island (a.k.a Braguinha)" written by Manuel Morais, a retired Associate Professor at the University of Évora, Portugal.
The first reference to the word Machete in the unequivocal sense of a musical instrument dates back to 1838, having been mentioned in the travel report of the North American Fanny Anne Burney (1812-1860; Mrs. Wood, by marriage), when she visited Madeira, between the years of 1838-39. In her account, written in diary format, the author states that: “Most Portuguese know how to play the Machete by ear (a small instrument, typical of Madeira, I believe)”. The earliest mention of Machete (also known as Machinho), in the sense of a musical instrument, is found in the work of Raphael Bluteau, Vocabulário, 1716: “Machete. Small viola ” (“Machinho is also small viola”); “comes from Latin, macer, thin, slender”. This small hand-held chordophone, or plucked string instrument, forms part of the large and diverse family of late-16th-century Portuguese hand guitars, being its tiple or descant.
It was thanks to the recent discovery we made in the Island of Madeira of six new handwritten compilations (called “Principios do Machete”) for the Madeiran machete, two dated from 1843 and four from 1844 and 1845, respectively, that today we can say that this small and peculiar handheld chordophone did not always use the traditional tuning, D3 – G3 – B3 – D4, a tuning that makes it possible to play the entire corpus of the repertoire that reached us between the years 1846 to 1904. However, and according to what is clearly indicated in the sources cited, between the years of 1843 and 1845, the recommended tuning for the Madeiran machete was: D3 – G3 – B3 – E4.
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