Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rare Forró Documentary in English & Portuguese - Luiz Gonzaga, Azulão & Jackson Do Pandeiro

Thanks to Fabio Nettekoven, I was lucky enough to snag a short video about forró from a Brazilian music documentary that originally aired on the BBC 4, featuring Luiz Gonzaga from later life, Azulão and Jackson do Pandeiro, along with interviews with Siba, Azulão, DJ Dolores and Paulo Andre Pires. They do a pretty good job capturing the setting and describing the meaning of forró to the people of the Northeast.  

Siba says that Luiz Gonzaga is like Bob Marley. I find this analogy problematic. One, Bob Marley was an international superstar who carried the sound of reggae to a mainstream audience in multiple countries. Although Gonzaga was a massive star and cultural icon in Brazil, forró has never reached an international mainstream audience. Of all of the interviewees, Paulo Andre Pires' observations are the most accurate. If anything, Carmen Miranda is more like Bob Marley. They both delivered the cleanest, poppiest versions of their artforms, reggae and samba, to the rest of the world. They both spoke English. Luiz Gonzaga did not. Two, Luiz Gonzaga is credited for creating the genres of baião and forró. Gonzaga created the forró group combo: triangle, accordion, vocals and zabumba. Bob Marley did not invent reggae or the type of band to play it. He only popularized it. That is not to diminish Marley's or Carmen Miranda's contributions, but Luiz Gonzaga almost single-handedly invented their genre of music that is still popular 70 years after he first appeared on the radio. Like I said in my first post on this blog back in 2012 (I might have lifted this from someone, but I don't know who): In terms of influence, Luiz Gonzaga is to Brazil like Alan Lomax, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly are combined in the US. Even my analogy is flawed. 

The other piece that is missing from this documentary is how many other artists there are who have made great and influential recordings other than Gonzaga and Jackson. Azulão, for example, is an accomplished artist in his own right, with a sizable catalog of recordings. In the documentary, Azulão seems like some random dude they pulled out of a house to sing a Gonzaga cover. Since Gonzaga launched the revolution in the 1940s, there have been thousands of forró 78s, LPs, 10"s, compactos, CDs and tapes released in Brazil; perhaps more than 100,000. It is great to start with Jackson and Gonzaga, but if you get interested in forró, those guys are at the peak of one massive iceberg.

Rare Forró Documentary in English & Portuguese - Luiz Gonzaga, Azulão & Jackson Do Pandeiro

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