Brazilian f-hole mandolin: any information?
I travel to Santarém, a smaller city in the lower Amazon in Brazil occasionally. This time, I was in a music store that had had a “bandolim,” and I purchased this inexpensive trade instrument ($200 US).
My question is: does anyone know anything about this model or this type of Brazilian mandolin? It looks a bit like the Kay and Harmony “trade mandolins” of yesterday—a low-cost Gibson A with f holes knockoff, but it also has some Brazilian bandolim features, including the sound. It is marked “Phoenix” on the headstock, with no interior label. Obviously, this instrument is no relationship with the custom U.S. maker. It is finished/painted black, the headstock lettering in decal. The top is laminate—I actually found this mandolin model for sale on a Brazilian webpage which lists the top as “special spruce!” The top and bottom are much less curved than a carved Gibson, and the body is both deeper and wider than a standard Gibson copy—but, more similar to traditional bandolims. The body and probably neck are a heavy tropical wood. The back is one piece, which, curiously to me, has a carved rib down the center; the top appears to be X-braced. The tailpiece and tuners are sturdy metal and the tuners have a reassuringly smooth feel. The fretboard and bridge are rosewood; the bridge must weigh three times what my Collings MT bridge does. There is no adjustable truss rod, and workmanship is variable—but it is a quite playable instrument.
The sound seems Brazilian to me, though I don’t have experience with serious Brazilian instruments--low volume (great for playing in a hotel room), jangling sound, heavier on the bass than the treble. My Collings MT has a black face, ivoroid binding, and single-piece back, so my two mandolins look rather similar—but boy, are they ever different beasts! I see this Brazilian mandolin as sort of the “anti-Collings,” to my other instrument—no CDC precision, no powerful A and E courses—but with more personality than most inexpensive mandolins and fun in its own right.
Does anyone know about the history of f-hole mandolins in Brazil? Is this a recent phenomenon? Where in Brazil might this instrument be made? After buying this one, I spotted another, similar but with a different name and fancier, for $100 more in another store, so it certainly is not unique. . . .
A universe in 4 courses and 22 frets.