Forró is a kind of Northeastern Brazilian dance that developed from classic styles of folk music such as "Chula" and "Xotis" (term that originated the derivate "Xote"), as well as a word used to denote the different genres of music which accompanies the dance. Both are much in evidence during the annual Festa Junina (June Festival), a part of Brazilian traditional culture which celebrates some of the saints of the Catholic religion. The most celebrated day of the festival is known as the Saint John's (São João) day.
The most accepted theory puts forró as a derivative of forrobodó, meaning "great party" or "commotion". This is the view held by Brazilian folklorist Câmara Cascudo, who studied the Brazilian Northeast through most of his life. Forrobodó is believed to come from the word forbodó (itself a corruption of fauxbourdon), which was used in the Portuguese court to define a dull party.
Another theory often heard popularly in Brazil is that the word forró 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").
There is a third theory that it also comes from the number of the engine that the English engineers used as they roamed the tracks of the railroad supervising the construction, "40", " Four-oh" that was corrupted by the Brazilians into "Forró".
In a quick note, "forró" in the same written way (with the accented o) in the Hungarian language means "burning hot" and in the argo meaning "funky" or "cool". In the 1940's, there were thousands of Hungarian emigrants arriving to South-America.
There are three rhythms of forró, xote (a slower-paced rhythm), baião (the original forró) and arrasta-pé (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. Forró is the most popular dance in Brazil's Northeast. Different genres of music can be used to dance the forró. Traditionally, all of these music genres use only three instruments: accordion, zabumba, and a metal triangle. The dance 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 forró 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 forró was brought to the Southeast from the Northeast by Luiz Gonzaga, who transformed the baião (a word originated from baiano, an assigned warm-up for artists to search for inspiration before playing) into a more sophisticated rhythm. In later years, forró 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 the youth of Southeast, South and Center-West Brazil.
Forró lyrics are usually about love and romance, passion, jealousy, or reminiscing about an ex-lover. They often are about Northeastern themes and the longing or homesickness (saudade) that was often experienced during migrations in search of work. An example of this are the lyrics of a folkloric, anonymous song, very popular in the Northeast and made famous across the country by Luiz Gonzaga, "Asa Branca" (the literal translation is White Wing; there is a recent American version played by Forro in the Dark featuring David Byrne) in which the singer says he will return home when the rains fall again on the dry, barren land of Northeast. They will know he is coming when they see a certain white winged bird of the savannah (sertão) that only arrives when it rains.
Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro are two of the most traditional forró composers. Other major forro musicians include Elba Ramalho, Geraldo Azevedo, Accioly Neto, Trio Nordestino, Dominguinhos, Eliane, Marinês, Falamansa, Trio Virgulino, Sivuca, Pertúcio Amorim, Santanna, Rastapé, Geraldinho Lins, João do Vale, Flávio José, Trio Forrozão, Jacinto Silva, Arlindo dos Oito Baixos, Santana, Vicente Nery, Jorge de Altinho, Arleno Farias, Nando Cordel, Aldemário Coelho, Delmiro Barros, and others like Nelio Guerson & Carlos Guerson.
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