With Maria Bonita & The Band playing the Sunday Community Fair at Lula Lounge, we thought we’d explain a little bit about their style of music: forró. Think of a fun evening, a full house and a romantic edge to your step. That is one of the myriad of ways to describe forró! This post is adapted from one I did for Rio Mate in 2009 click here
In times past forró was the music of the working people across Brazil. While originally from the country’s Northeast, through massive internal migration the style became a national form. In the late 90s and early 2000, the old school forró “Pé de Serra” was again popularized by middle class youth travelling to Bahia in the summers to dance by the seaside.
Forró is not really the music per say. It is more of an all-inclusive cultural manifestation: music, dance, party. When you dance the rhythms of forró it is usually in a pair. Style can vary between people and region but it is always fun, tongue & cheek, and sometimes safado (an implied sly sexuality). Traditionally forró is most popular in the months of June (for St. John festivities) and July, during the winter of Brazil. Forró is traditionally played by a trio, normally comprised of 1. a zabumba (a double headed drum, struck with a mallet on one side that gives a bass sound and struck with a thin stick on the other side that gives a high pitched attack) the zabumba plays a syncopated beat, 2. a metal triangle emphasizing the on and off beat in a constant rhythm, and 3. an accordion playing the melodic line and improvising over the rhythm, in some regions or if there is no accordion, a rabeca (a type of violin) or a guitar are used. These trios play a number of rhythms, among them: coco, xaxado, samba, arrasta-pé, and baião. All of them have their associated dance steps.
Forró music was popularized by the great Luiz Gonzaga, who started a recording career in Rio in 1943 playing the music that the Northeast migrants longed to hear. For two decades he was immensely popular, and as his popularity waned in the cities during the 60s, he remained popular in the rural areas of Brazil. He regained popularity again in the 70s when a number of prominent musicians, such as Gilberto Gil, re-recorded his songs. Other famous forró artists include: Jackson do Pandeiro, Elba Ramalho, Genival Lacerda, Dominguins, Trio Nordestino and Alceu Valenca.
here is a clip of Luiz Gonzaga doing a little spoken word explaining his return to the Northeast of Brazil after years working as a musician in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
an example of a forro ‘rabecado’ played with violin from the first ever show of Maria Bonita & The Band.