ForrÃ³ (Portuguese) is one genre of Brazilian music that originated in Northeastern Brazil.
It encompasses various dance styles as well as a number of different musical beats.
This music genre has gained widespread popularity in all regions of Brazil and recently, in 2012, there was a peak of popularity outside of Brazil.
ForrÃ³ is closely associated with Brazilian June Festivals, which celebrate a number of Christian saints. The most celebrated is Saint John's day.
Origin of the Term
There are several theories on the origin of the name.
The main theory is that forrÃ³ as a derivative of forrobodÃ³, meaning "great party" or "commotion". This is the view held by Brazilian folklorist LuÃs da CÃ¢mara Cascudo, who studied the Brazilian Northeast through most of his life.
ForrobodÃ³ is believed to come from the word forbodÃ³ (itself a corruption of fauxbourdon), which was used in the Portuguese court to define a dull party. The word forrobodÃ³ is itself very common in Portuguese popular conversation to describe a fun, but almost depraved and limitless party. This word was carried by the several Portuguese migration waves to the Brazil, lost the light negative meaning and was slowly simplified by their childrens.
Yet another theory often heard popularly in Brazil and elsewhere--for example, Gilberto Gil provides it in concerts--is that the word forrÃ³ is a derivative of the English expression "for all" and that it originated in the early 1900s. English engineers on the Great Western Railway of Brazil near Recife would throw balls on weekends and classify them as either only for railroad personnel or for the general populace ("for all"). This belief was somewhat reinforced by a similar practice by USAF personnel stationed at the Natal Air Force Base during World War II, but it is unrelated because before the USAF went to Natal, the name "ForrÃ³" was already in use.
ForrÃ³ is the most popular genre of music and dance in Brazil's Northeast, to the extent that historically "going to the ForrÃ³" meant simply going to party or going out. Regarding the music, it is based on a combination of three instruments (accordion, zabumba and a metal triangle). The dance however becomes very different as you cross the borders of the Northeast into the Southeast. As part of the popular culture it is in constant change. The dance known as college forrÃ³ is the most common style between the middle-class students of colleges and universities in the Southeast, having influences of other dances like salsa and samba-rock.
The traditional music used to dance the forrÃ³ was brought to the Southeast from the Northeast by Luiz Gonzaga, who transformed the baiÃ£o (a word originated from baiano and assigned a warm-up for artists to search for inspiration before playing) into a more sophisticated rhythm. In later years, forrÃ³ achieved popularity throughout Brazil, in the form of a slower genre known as xote, that has been influenced by pop-rock music to become more acceptable by Brazilian youth of Southeast, South and Central regions.
ForrÃ³ (the dance)
AviÃµes do ForrÃ³
There are three rhythms of forrÃ³: xote (a slower-paced rhythm), baiÃ£o (the original forrÃ³) and arrasta-pÃ© (the fastest of the three), and amongst these, many styles of dancing, which varies from region to region, and may be known by different names according to the location. ForrÃ³ is danced in pairs, usually very close together, with the man's left hand holding the woman's right hand as in the Waltz, his right arm around her back and her left arm around his neck; Other styles may require to stay partially away, or in a considerable distance, only holding their hands up the shoulders. Influences from salsa and other Caribbean dances has given mobility to forrÃ³, with the woman - and occasionally the man - being spun in various ways, although it's not essential to spin at all, and more complex movements may prove impossible to be executed in the usually crowded dancing area of forrÃ³s.
List of the most popular styles of forrÃ³ in Brazil:
Xote originally has its roots in the schottische dance.
xote: a basic style, danced close together in a left-left-right-right movement, and has no spinning or variations;
forrÃ³-love: similar to xote, but with a strong influence from zouk-love;
universitÃ¡rio: the most popular style outside the Northeast, much like the xote, but with the partners moving forward and backward, much like traditional Bolero. It contains many variations of movements;
miudinho: the man dances with his left side slightly tilted, his left hand on the woman's waist and her both her hands around his neck. Danced in the same place (mobility can be gained through spinning), has a lot of hip movements;
puladinho/manquinho: is danced with the man's right leg still and his left leg marking the beats on the ground, while the woman with her left leg still and her right leg moving (the partners can exchange the leg positions, although it's not common);
merenguinho: the partners move along the sides, with movements similar to Merengue dance;
cavalguinho: much like the puladinho, but with man and woman marking both their legs on the ground in alternate tempos, as if riding a horse.
baiÃ£o/pÃ©-de-serra: basically a style of xote, but with the partners tilting to the sides and moving their legs less to follow the faster rhythm;
cacau: comes from ParaÃba, in which the partners dance slightly away from each other in very fast leg movements;
amassa-cacau: a variation of cacau from CearÃ¡, it's danced less close and demands a lot of hip movements, with the legs mimicking a person squeezing cacao
valsado: danced close together, consists of moving along the sides, crossing the legs in front of each other;
valsadÃ£o: same as valsado, but danced slightly away from each other. It is, together with universitÃ¡rio, the richest style in terms of movements and variations;
forrÃ³fieira: a newer style, mixes the traditional forrÃ³ with steps and influence from Samba de Gafieira, and it has become quite popular in Rio de Janeiro and some parts of Northeast.
arrasta-pÃ©: can only be danced to its own style, much like a very fast xote, but alternately marking the beats on the ground with both legs.
Miudinho and puladinho can also be danced to baiÃ£o music and even to arrasta-pÃ©, but in the latter the leg work is so intense that it's impracticable.
Some people also like to include brega/calypso in the forrÃ³ category, because this dance has suffered much influence of forrÃ³ throughout the decades, but it's danced to its own rhythm (not to be mistaken with Calypso music).
Forro dancing styles are informally often grouped into two main "families", simply for practical reasons: The older Nordestino (North-eastern) type of Forro and the UniversitÃ¡rio (University) Forro that developed later in the South.
Nordestino forro is danced with the couple much closer together, with their legs often inter-twined and a characteristic sideways shuffle movement. Because of the intimacy, there are not as many step variations in this style.
UniversitÃ¡rio forro, with its origins in the big southern cities of Brazil, is the more popular style outside of the north-east. Its basic step is forward-backwards - slightly similar to traditional Bolero or Salsa. With more space between the pair, many more moves, steps and turns are possible than in Nordestino styles.
The more common steps include:
DobradiÃ§a - the couple opens to the side;
Caminhada - simple step of the couple to the front or the back;
ComemoraÃ§Ã£o - balancing step, with the man's leg between the ladies';
Giros - a variety of turns, both simple and ones involving both dancers;
Oito - a movement of both dancers around each other, side by side.
UniversitÃ¡rio forro supposedly evolved from (and is still very similar to) the pÃ©-de-serra/baiÃ£o styles, while Nordestino is used to refer to the styles more like the original xote.
ForrÃ³ (the music)
ForrÃ³, referring to the music and not the dance, encompasses today various musical styles. The musical style, which is at the origin of, and from which have grown out most musical styles today denoted as ForrÃ³, is the ForrÃ³ of Luiz Gonzaga (and others such as Jackson do Pandeiro and MarinÃªs).
This musical style, commonly called also ForrÃ³ PÃ©-de-Serra, is played by a trio combination of
an accordion (with a dry tuning, as opposed to the wet tunings used more commonly in Europe) and a
rhythm section of a triangle and a zabumba (where the triangle keeps an ongoing pulse and the zabumba is responsible for the different syncopated rhythms in the ForrÃ³ genre).
This combination of instruments was defined as the base of ForrÃ³ by Luiz Gonzaga.
Before Gonzaga other combinations have been commonly used. The combination of triangle with accordion is a combination that has already existed in European folk music before and is also used in Cajun music in the United States. ForrÃ³ thus conserves a format of a small ensemble with multiple (in this case two) percussionists, something that also used be common in Europe and the United States before the invention of the growth of the popularity of the drum set.
This combination of instruments serves rather as a base and is not fixed, incorporating sometimes other instruments such as fiddle, flute, pandeiro, bass, cavaquinho and acoustic guitar.
The combination of zabumba and triangle is almost always part of the rhythm section of any ForrÃ³ group. The accordion is always part of a ForrÃ³ ensemble, apart from the sub-style of "ForrÃ³ rabecado", where the accordion is replaced by a fiddle.
The triangle keeps an ongoing pulse on all the four times of the (4/4) beat, while accentuating the third beat. In this sense, the function can be compared to the rhythm guitar or the hi-hat of the drum set in rock music, although the triangle accentuates the third beat more strongly with its high pitched metallic sound, being damped to give a fainter and drier sound on the other beats. The zabumba, which is played on both sides, on one side giving a grave sound and on the other a sharp whip-like sound, plays the syncopated rhythms essential to ForrÃ³.
From the melodic and harmonic point of view, ForrÃ³ makes heavy use of the Escala nordestina (literally North-eastern scale), which could be characterised as being a mixture of the Lydian and Mixo-lydian modes. The North-eastern scale represents the basis of a large part of the more traditional ForrÃ³ and the Forro PÃ©-de-Serra, in similar way as the blues scale is the basis for the music of the Mississippi Delta. The Escala nordestina is most evident in pieces such as Vem Morena, BaiÃ£o of Luiz Gonzaga. The accordion is the typical melody instrument used in ForrÃ³, and is sometimes called the "Soul of ForrÃ³" or the "Soul of the SertÃ£o", referring the region where ForrÃ³ has originated.
As ForrÃ³ diversified away from its roots, it has incorporated other influences, and more significantly, diversified into quite distinct musical styles.
Lyrics and Themes
ForrÃ³ lyrics have changed with time and regarding the sub-genre, as the music moved from being a purely North-Eastern music genre to being a genre popular all across Brazil.
Traditionally, lyrics were about life in the rural North-East (in particular the SertÃ£o and other North-Eastern themes, such as concerns about droughts, migration to look for work and thus about longing or homesickness (Saudade).
An example of this is the probably most emblematic (anonymous) song Asa Branca, made famous across all of Brazil in the 1940s by Luiz Gonzaga, sometimes also called the "Hymn of the SertÃ£o" or "Hymn of the North-East". The lyrics are about leaving the rural home in the SertÃ£o because of drought, and about hope to able to return when the rain will fall again on the dry, barren land of the SertÃ£o. The rain will be announced by the arrival of Asa branca, a certain white winged bird, which only flies there if it rains (there is a recent American version played by the group Forro in the Dark featuring David Byrne).
In the more recent genre of ForrÃ³ Universitario, lyrics have a much more urban flavor and relate more to life of a young urbanized middle class, as lyrics found nowadays in rock music.
As in many other musical styles, lyrics are also often about love and romance, passion, jealousy, or reminiscing about an ex-lover.
Today various musical instruments are used in the various styles of ForrÃ³ (although always with a reference to the traditional combination of accordion, triangle and zabumba) :