History of Forró

Forró is a traditional roots couple dance that originated in rural north-eastern Brazil. Over the 1950s forró moved south into the major cities, including Rio & Sao Paulo, and picked up a lot of salsa and samba influences. The basic steps are very similar to salsa, making it extremely easy to pick up.

Known as the “outback dance”, forró has never lost popularity in the countryside of Brazil, in rural states like Minas Gerais and north to its origin states, Pernambuco and Bahia, where forró is so popular that the word simply means “going to a party”. The popularity of forró in Brazilian cities has ebbed and flowed, as musical styles like Bossa Nova overtook it in the 1960s. Forró has seen a number of resurgent phases, which are generally associated with leading artists like Luiz Gonzaga (1950s) and Falamansa (1990s). Indeed, according to Caetano Veloso, one of the most popular Brazilian artists, Luiz Gonzaga & his forró music was the first significant cultural event with mass appeal in Brazil. Eclipsed by Samba Pagode outside of Brazil, as the most recognisable dance to international eyes, forró has always held its own within the country, and is now experiencing a renaissance in Europe due to the influx of Brazilian immigration.

Forró in Europe

There are currently 60 forró festivals in Europe, in cities from Lisboa to St Petersburg, Istanbul to Dublin, and seemingly everywhere in between. Forró seems to follow Capoeira wherever it sets down roots, and in some places seems to burst out of nowhere, like flowers in a rocky pavement.

Forró in Dublin

Forró has been in Dublin for nearly 10 years, but through a lack of coordination and organisation, and due to the fact that many Brazilians only live in Ireland temporarily and do not have time to commit to long-term projects, it has taken a number of years for a committee of long-term residents to be established to support our bands and teachers and to promote the culture effectively.

Project in Moon World

When a person tells  you:

I go to forró… What do you think?

Do you think of Calcinha preta or of Frank Aguiar?

Do you think of Falamansa or Rastapé?

Do you think of Dança dos Famosos do Faustão ?

Do you think of Dominguinhos or Elba Ramalho?

It might be because your thoughts are totally correct!

All these artists and bands, in your sense, play and dance forró.

But what is forró? Where does forró come frome? What is a forrozeiro, or better, what is to be a forrozeiro?!

Well let’s go…

Forró is a typically Brazilian rhythm that was born in the Northeast, in the forests of the Northeast. The exact origin of the name of ‘Forro’ is not known. Some say that the word forró is a ‘Brazilianized’ version of the English phrase: For All.

It is said that the foreigners who went to live and work in Brazil made a party on the weekend and put on the doors of the parties with accordion a sign saying “For All” and the people at that time simply brazilianized at end of the nineteenth century the ‘For All’ and turned it into “Forro.”

Others say that the word forró comes from the abbreviation of the word “FORROBODÓ”. The word forrobodó word comes from the Banto language, originating from the African slaves brought in the era of Brazilian colonization. Forrobodó was used in Brazil to describe the mess, racket, party, dance, and gave hence the word forró.

Today there is still much discussion about the origin of the name of Forro name, which is now regarded as a musical rhythm, like samba, baião, sertanejo and frevo and other typical Brazilian rhythms. However, before turning into rythme forró was a party, every hinterland party where the bellow, the accordion (‘pé de bode’), the 8-bass accordion were playing ‘foot goat’, this was the forró, which became over time a specific rhythm.

And who invented this forró?

Its origin is northeast, where the accordion players along with Melê players, which is the father of the bass drum, a very rustic instrument and rather artisanal, which is composed of an aluminum brass, wrapped in a rubber probably from the car tire camera, of the truck, etc., which is hit upon to produce a bass sound, and the tambourine.

This was the first trio format, this was the father of forró as we know it, the original FORRÓ PÉ DE SERRA.

On December 13, 1912 in the farmhouse caiçara on the hills of Araripe, close to the town of Exú in the forests of the state of Pernambuco, near the border with Ceará, on the Day of Santa Luzia, a boy was born, the son of Januário and Santana, that would change the history of the Brazilian Regional Popular music. On that day, in honor of Santa Lucia, Luiz Gonzaga do Nascimento was born.

Son of farmers, he grew up in the dry rigid placed of the Northeast, always watching his father playing in the Forrós of the region. His Father was an 8-bass accordionist, ‘pé de bode’, and tuner of these instruments. He was so curious about his father’s services that Luiz Gonzaga learned to play the accordion and began to follow his father in the dance festivals in the forests.

When he was young, he hooked up with the daughter of a colonel of the city, where he got satisfaction with it, because he did not accept the relationship of Luiz, who was ‘dark’ and from a poor family, and the girl was from an important lineage in that place. That same day he was slapped by his parents because he stood up for himself against the colonel, who said him to go away from the city in order ‘not to cause a disgrace’.

And so this happened. Gonzaga sold his accordion and served in the Brazilian army, where he was a bugler, and stayed for eight years without firing a shot!

When he left the army, he bought an accordion and started his history as a musician, settled in the city of Rio de Janeiro and there tried his luck.

Playing in the neighborhood of Mangue, Lapa, Luiz he played in the streets a bit of Portuguese Fado, Bolero and Waltzes, until one day he was asked by students from Ceará who were studying there.

‘- Aren’t you from up there? Aren’t you from mountainous Araripe?

– Yes sir!

– Then play something from the North for us to kill the homesickness.

– I don’t remember any.

– So boy, I’ll give you money the next time if you play for us something from up there!

– Okay!

Coming home, Luiz put the bellows on the chest and remembered a couple of things that played with his father. When he returned to the students, he looked at them and said:

‘-I’ve got something for you!’

There he played ‘Vira e Mexe’, instrumental and pé de serra … It was a success!

That day began the explosion of Northeastern music in Rio de Janeiro. Gonzaga participated in several talent shows taking top marks, pleasing everyone with a number that nobody had touched.

He made a contract with RCA Victor productions, and since then there was only success, performing in all Brazil. Together with Humberto Teixeira he invented another rhythm, Baião.

Baião is a rhythm that at the beginning talked about sertanejo life, which left its homeland to try its luck in the ‘South’, and soon fell in the preference of the people, and Gonzaga won the title of the King of Baião.

And so it was. With several renowned partners like Humberto Teixeira and João Silva, Gonzaga composed the great successes of the Brazilian song book like: Assum preto, Cintura fina, Respeita Januário, Estrada de Canindé, Sabiá, Xote das meninas, A dança da moda, Riacho do Navio, Vem Morena, and the music that became known in Brazil and in the world as “Hymn of the Northeast”, the famous Asa Branca.

This success has brought many other northeastern musicians and singers and fellows of Gonzaga, they tried their luck in Rio, always with Gonzaga’s help, there were names emerged like Jackson do Pandeiro, Rei do Ritmo; Marinês, Rainha do Xaxado, Genival Lacerda, Rei da Munganga; Dominguinhos, Herdeiro do reinado of Baião;

Trio Nordestino

Os Roxinhos da Bahia

Os 3 do Nordeste

Ary Lobo, Anastácia

Antonio Barros e Cecéu

Camarão, Jacinto Silva

Carmélia Alves

Edson Duarte

Zito Borborema

Benício Guimarães

Trio Mossoró

Jair Alves

Trio Nortista

Messias Holanda

Trio Juazeiro

Joci Batista

João Gonçalves

Outros Tantos

… and so many others.

This was and is the root, the beginning of forró, which gained ground in the media and started evolving, with the accordion accompanied by the daughter of Melê, the Zabumba, and the Triangle, these three instruments always in front. Soon there were adhered newcomers, and forró has evolved, along with bass drum, triangle or accordion, appeared the cavaquinho, the contrabass, the battery, the guitar, the percussion, and in the late 80s, the dance trio format was almost forgotten. then they formed the forró bands.

In the early 90’s, Brazilian music was ‘americanized’. More value was given to what came from abroad than to what was from here and forró that had over time been forgotten, first with the arrival of the new Bossa in the 60s, then with Young Guard in the 70s, and with lambada in 80s, the regional music was almost forgotten, staying alive only in the countryside of the northeastern states.

In the big capitals of the Northeast forró bands appeared; they were dance bands, this kind of bands that played everything, played forró, with the difference the bass drum and the triangle were thrown to the corner and the accordion was replaced with electric keyboards. The media at that time (just like today) did not have power and in the late 90’s the forró band was on fire, with lyrics without sense and even offensive and degrading, belittling the traditional one.

It was then in the Southeast college youth doing research, trying to rescue a bit of the real Brazilian music, root music that discovered the forró of Luiz Gonzaga. Some interested began to learn to play the accordion, others the bass drum, others the triangle, and formed a small percussion and on the guitar they formed Forró Universitário.

Forró universitário was a national phenomenon in the late 90s. Bands like Falamansa, Rastapé, Bicho de Pé, Peixelétrico, following the same melodic base, making new lyrics, some in a matter of protest, and this movement started taking fantastic proportions. There was a period that in the Southeast there was only forró universitário, and this forró universitário made other young people be interested in finding out where all this comes from, who was Luiz Gonzaga, how his work, his life was and how the real forró came to light but for a short time.

The Brazilian media are ungrateful. They do not care about moral values, and this happened with forró that was a pure rhythm and started getting polluted. Playing the bass the bands began with appealing music again and as the majority of the Brazilian people are influenced by the media, forró lost its power, but it did not disappear.

Today there forró in all states of southeastern Brazil. People who worship the dance of Gonzaga, de Dominguinhos. These people usually are not a futile part of the Brazilian media, with their ‘camaros amarelos’ and chupa que é de uva’. These people usually escape from Lek Lek, Tchou tchas day by day and look for something that is pure, enjoyable to listen, dance and make new friends with people who share the same ideas.

These are the people from the tribe of Forrozeiros.

The forrozeiros are people who although not from the Northeast found in forró their fortress of strength. The passion of forrozeiros is dancing forró. If there is an accordion, one bass drum and a triangle, there is at least a couple dancing.

There is not a more pleasant rhythm  to dance than the one of forró. A couple connecting heart to heart, face to face, mixing in the same music feelings, would be a couple of love or even friendship and joy, with the lightness and beauty of turns.

Today there are forrozeiros in all southeastern cities, in the countryside or in the capital, can be many or few, but there is always at least one that is rocked in the sound of the accordion.

You will hardly see a dance school that does not teach forró universitário in any city around.

And these are the forrozeiros, music lovers, dance lovers, lovers of the Brazilian culture.

But is that all? To be a forrozeiro is just to dance forró?

That’s where you’re wrong dude!

Today there are many people who fell in love with forró in such a way that only live in forró:

“My life is just in forró, my life is just in forró … “(Trio Forrozão)

Today there are numerous trios, bands and DJs to keep the values ​​and culture playing in their repertoire songs that were successful in the past and bringing to present an era, when all the so called forrozeiros wanted to have lived in.

Today a forrozeiro has his identity, has his drink, has his way to dance, his outfit, and best of all, his way of living his life.

A forrozeiro has today a lifestyle!

Numerous festivals all over the year emerge out there every day attracting more and more supporters in various parts of the country.

FENFIT (National Festival of Forró Itaunas) ES

Festival Rootstock SP

Minas Roots MG

Cerrado Roots DF

Maxuca Roots SC

Rio Roots RL

Nata Forrozeira SP

Particulino do Alê SP

… without counting the forró marathon spread through ballads in several states and cities, where the event begins at 19:00 and ends just at 7:00 in the next morning in all sites, farms and ranches, with swimming pool, cottages, camping area, at the same event you c ome closer to nature, culture and the atmosphere; in my 10 years of being a forrozeiro I have rarely seen fights and drugs, I have rarely seen some kind of illegal demonstration. It is a place, where I saw people finding their perfect partner, friends for a whole life, partners in life and even a marriage (my case). A healthy place, a place to make friends, a place to dance, to enjoy good music, a place with beautiful and friendly people, this is my lifestyle, this is to be a forrozeiro, and above all, to enjoy life and have fun.

There is no age to be happy, there is no age to travel, there is no age or body type to learn how to dance, the best time is now; the words of a person who has as his fuel on a daily basis: God, Love, Family and Forró.

Do you want to know how to be part of this tribe and have this lifestyle?

Ask us how …

The project in the Moon World.

Text written by:

Rodolpho Castro “Fuskinha”

Reviewed by:

Aline Camargo Martins Castro

Thais Marques

Kenya Dantas.

and translated by:

Polina Dimea