Time Out São Paulo

Forró in the Dark

A fresh take on forró folk music

It’s forró, but not as we know it. For a start, there’s no accordion – the staple, love-it-or-hate-it, defining instrument of forró. Only one member of the band is from the North-East. And they don’t even live in Brazil, but in New York, where Refosco, Jorge, Davi and Guilherme formed their Brazilian-folk fusion combo in 2002. But one key element remains intact: this is music to dance to, pure and simple: a raw and funky fusion of rock and MPB ramped up with a distinctive splash of forró. 

‘In the beginning, we did have accordion,’ explains Guilherme. ‘But then we started having that heavier sound – guitar and bass. And guitars can open more space than accordions.’

One early fan was David Byrne, who provided guest vocals on their track ‘Asa Branca’. Three albums down the line, Forró in the Dark played SESC Pompéia in December 2010 and soon had the crowd throwing those complex couple dance moves that characterise this most populist of rural Brazilian music forms. ‘For us, playing in Brazil and seeing the response of the audience is great,’ says Guilherme. ‘It’s really important because we don’t just want to be a band for gringos, you know.’

They may stretch the forró genre as far as it will go, but as the SESC show demonstrated, the song remains the same. ‘Forró is really like a folk party,’ says Guilherme. ‘It began when people used to throw a party after somebody got married or built a new floor on their house, and everyone would dance.’ Guilherme and Jorge are from Rio; Mauro from Santa Catarina; and only Davi from Salvador, in forró’s Bahia heartland. But each found his own way to the music.

‘I used to go to Caraíva, on the coast in Bahia, and the only thing to do there at night is dance forró. That’s how I started. First dancing, then playing.’ With that, Guilherme is off to join his band-mates and celebrate Christmas vacations in his homeland. But first, one more question: the name. ‘There is a song by (forró great) Luiz Gonzaga called “Forró no escuro," says Guilherme. ‘It had the essential connotation of a forró party, and it’s very much related to what we do, that sweaty, sexy thing.

By Dom Phillips
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