Forró FAQ and Links

Why make a blog about forró?

Forró music is fairly unknown outside of Brazil.  It's even more difficult to get information on great forró recordings and classic songs.  Hopefully, this blog will expose people to this music. In Brazil, the type of forró that I collect is roots, meaning vintage or classic, vs. the US definition of roots, which is a contemporary return to a specific form.

What is forró?

Forró is a distinct, energetic style of dance and music from northeastern Brazil played most traditionally with a bass drum (called a zabumba), triangle, vocalists and an accordion.  It can also be a blanket term for all upbeat, northeastern Brazilian music (música nordestina), but this is inaccurate.  Forró is musically distinct.  Usually, forró groups play a mix of styles including forró, baião, xote, xaxado, côco, arrastapé, quadrilha, marcha, frevo and rojão.  Early forró records also included sambas, but this became less common with the 2nd and 3rd generation groups. Rhythmically, forró touches on African roots. The music often employs a strong melodic European verse / chorus structure.  

What does the word forró mean?

The exact origin of the word forró is contested.  

Explanations are given at: Wikipedia

What instruments are used to create forró?

The first 5 or 6 are the most common in forró .

1) vocals
2) backing vocals by lavadeira (which technically means the women who wash clothes in the river, or laundry women.) These vocals are usually sung by women (but sometimes men join the chorus) as a single voice and not in harmony.
3) triangle
4) zabumba (This is a bass drum with 2 heads; a deeper head on top is played with a soft mallet and a brighter membrane on the bottom is played with a thin, flexible stick called a bacalhau.)
5) accordion
6) cavaquinho (This is a steel-stringed Brazilian ukulele, similar in size to a soprano uke.)
7) tuba
8) pandeiro (This is similar to a tambourine with a head and jingles, but is played with complex rhythms. Jackson do Pandeiro played it, naturally.)
9) violão de sete cordas - This is a seven-stringed classical guitar.  It’s not uncommon to forró recordings, but it’s not always used by live forró groups.  Many 60s and 70s CBS recordings, including those made by Jackson do Pandeiro, used the violão de sete cordas as the primary bass instrument.  Also note there are many different types of viola/violão, including the viola caipira (country guitar - with 5 or 10 strings) and viola teira (12 strings) and the viola-de-cocho (5 strings)
10) percussion shakers, caxixi (a straw shaker filled with seeds),

Where did you get the music for your blog?

So far
, all of the music on my blog has come from my vinyl LPs and not other sources.  I transfer the music to the computer using a Radial J33 through a Neve preamp, add a little bit of compression and clean up that sound with ClickRepair.

Do you know how to forró dance?

No, but I can recommend some good teachers in NYC. 

I’ve heard of samba and bossa nova, but not forró.  How is forró regarded in Brazil?

It depends on who you ask.  When it’s out of fashion, forró is disregarded by the urban intelligentsia as the country, ghetto and hillbilly music of Brazil.  Forró often falls victim to class-ism and urban elitism.  The northeast is one of the poorest parts of Brazil.  Traditionally, forró was the music of the people living in favelas (shanty towns), the working class and the working poor. Forró sometimes shares a bed with the intelligentsia.  For example, the Tropicalia crowd lauded forró in the late 60’s when the music was considered completely unfashionable.  This gave forró a boost and led to its 3rd wave of popularity in the 70’s.  Currently, forró is going through a new period of appreciation.  There are college groups in São Paulo and Rio playing forró.  Granted, traditional forró performers wear goofy outfits and upside-down taco hats, like those worn by Northeastern bandits called cangaceiro at the turn of the century. Sometimes, LP design and lyrics are downright embarrassing.  But, the top musicians who play forró are incredible.  In the U.S., attitudes have periodically changed towards bluegrass, folk, all types of inner-city and country music as well.  Forró is similar.

How do you say forró?

It depends on how the singer is singing or yelling the word!  I’ve heard foe-hoe, faw-haw, and forrrrrro (with a rolled r, sung playfully by Jackson do Pandeiro).

Where can I buy classic forró LPs, CDs or MP3s?

Since a lot of classic forró LPs have never been reissued and were never exported from Brazil, you can patiently hunt for them or download them from bloggers like
forroemvinil.   Most of the old LPs that I’ve found in good condition were promo copies for radio airplay.  DJs played forró in dusty outdoor dances, so a fair amount of the old LPs are probably not in beautiful shape.  MPB albums seem to be a dime a dozen, but forró LPs are relatively scarce.  That does not mean that forró LPs are super valuable, though.  Most of the super expensive records from Brazil fall into the golden psych, funk, garage rock and bossa nova LP categories.

I learned about 98% of what I know from a fantastic site called forro em vinil.  It was started by two Brazilian DJs / forró archivists named DJ Ivan and DJ Tick in the 90s.  If you want to get a history degree from the University of Forró, this is the place to go.  Ivan and Tick may be the most important historians for forró music since Luiz Gonzaga!

MP3 and CD (legitimate reissues):

Some forró has been reissued and remastered.  The easiest way to find legitimate forró releases is to check Amazon and iTunes in the United States for mp3 downloads.  CDs by Luiz Gonzaga, Ary Lobo and Marinês e sua Gente were remastered and reissued.  I’ve gotten great deals on their classic catalogs.  CDs by Jackson Do Pandeiro and Os 3 Do Nordeste are more expensive and harder to find.  Some compilations are much better than others.  I created this Amazon list a few years ago to help people.

Original vinyl LPs, 78s and singles:

Brazilian forró LP dealers are hard to find. Find them on Facebook. There are some good stores online. Cel-Som Discos (http://www.celsomdiscos.com.br/) in São Paulo is the only dealer that I have met in Brazil with access to the forró discs that I am looking for. His LPs are in described condition, he takes Paypal, sends tracking numbers and is easy to communicate with. I recommend him highly. I'm always eager to learn about more vinyl dealers, so please write if you know someone.

Sometimes, you can score old LPs on eBay.  There are a few Brazilian and Argentinian dealers who sell forró albums.  You may find one good forró LP for every 1000 Brazilian albums you scroll through.  Forró LPs were not widely exported and are not easy to find outside of Brazil. 

Vinyl on Gemm, MusicStack, CDandLP.com, etc. (buyer beware):

It’s difficult to buy used LPs directly from Brazil using Brazilian sites.  

An eBay-like site in Brazil called Mercadolivre isn’t set up for international trade with non-Brazilians.  People need to have a Brazilian bank account in order to buy on Mercadolivre and most other commercial websites in Brazil.  It’s possible to open a Brazilian bank account internationally, but I have not tried this.  It’s probable that some sellers will not ship internationally. Mercadolivre is not as reliable as eBay nor does it have the same level of buyer protection.  Also, records on Mercadolivre have limited descriptions, so LP condition may vary greatly unless purchased from a reliable source.

Be very wary of purchasing from Brazil on MusicStack or Gemm.  I was ripped off in 2010 on MusicStack with a Western Union money order from a Brazilian seller / LP dealer with good reputation named José Araujo a.k.a musicfrombrazil.  I believe that this seller has popped up again recently as Vinyl Brasilis (vinylbrasilis), SUMMERVINY or SAW (southamericaworld) on Gemm. Typically, the seller has tons of “stock”, rare records, almost no feedback and a low fill rate. 

Initially, José Araujo (Jose Antonio B Araujo) was responsive to my emails.  José had been on the site for years. Since he had a track record, I figured that he was a good bet and I sent my Western Union Money Order.  Shortly after, he disappeared from MusicStack.  Alas, I got scammed, taken, swindled, hornswoggled, robbed, ripped off, frogged, gypped, whacked, flimflammed and defrauded.

Dave Stack, the boss of MusicStack, said José also owed his site money.  Dave was very nice and sympathetic, BUT, MusicStack provides no Paypal-like insurance, so I was told that I was out of luck. 

Sellers on sites like Gemm, MusicStack and CDandLP with low feedback, low fill rates, no affiliation with a retail store or bad reputations should also be avoided l
ike the black plague. Trust me!  The risk is not worth it.  If they only take Western Union Money Orders, run for the hills.  If you must buy, purchase the cheapest items that the seller has the first few times to establish a trustworthy relationship and demand tracking. You can get it for international orders.

Sources of additional information about forró and Brazilian music:

sites and blogs: 

http://pinterest.com/baskervils/forro-lp-gringo/ - My Pinterest page with lots of
forró artist photos.

http://www.acervoorigens.com/ - This is a great blog about music in the Brazilian northeast.

Antonio Barros e cecué - official site for the famous forró songwriting team.

Cel-Som Discos (http://www.celsomdiscos.com.br/) - This is the best Brazilian forró LP dealer that I've met.  He is honest, professional and has excellent discs.

forroemvinil - This blog is an incredible forró resource.  Since 2007, Brazilian DJ’s Tick and Ivan have been amassing mostly out-of-print forró albums, converting them to mp3, organizing them by release date / label and posting them on this blog.  Since most of the LP’s were never available outside of Brazil, this resource is invaluable.  Support these fellows and the artists that they promote.
Jackson do Pandeiro - fan site - the timeline is excellent

Jackson do Pandeiro - fan site

Luiz Gonzaga - official artist site

ONordeste.com - Nicely written blog (Portuguese) about the arts in the Brazilian Northeast

Slipcue - DJ Joe Sixpack has been reviewing all types of Brazilian music for years.  This is a great resource for English reviews of Brazilian music.  Joe is not a forró specialist, but he has reviewed some albums, particularly CD reissues, and he is spot on. 

http://scottkettner.com/ - New Yorker Scott Kettner is a fantastic gringo percussionist (alfaia, triangle, zabumba, pandeiro... everything) who was trained in Brazil.  Check out his workshops, YouTube clips and groups.

http://lepoissonrouge.com/events/artist/532 - New Yorker Rob Curto is an amazing accordion player and a master of northeastern Brazilian styles.  He plays quite a bit in NYC and tours Europe and the States.

http://lepoissonrouge.com/events/artist/4456 - If you're visiting New York City, go hear Greg Caz spin.

Nublu - Their Wednesday night forró party is the stuff of legend in NYC.

Wikipedia - Brazilian wiki has a lot more information than the English version on forró and its artists.

books and printed material:

O fole roncou! Uma história do forró (Portuguese Edition) by Carlos Marcelo and Rosualdo Rodrigues: This book was released in 2013, It is entirely in Portuguese. It looks great. http://ofoleroncouolivro.wordpress.com/

Jackson do Pandeiro: o rei do ritmo by Fernando Moura, Antônio Vicente: A book about the king. All Portuguese. 

Focus:  Music Of Northeast Brazil (Focus on World Music Series) - Larry Crook:  Very academic.  It’s exhaustive and very informative.  This book has limited information about the forró recording stars, but you will find information about the types of instruments that are used and painstaking details about the musical evolution of the Northeast.  A worthy read for fans of this type of music.

The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil - Chris McGowan:
This is a nice little Brazilian music primer written in English.  Northeastern folks like Jackson do Pandeiro, Luiz Gonzaga, João do Vale and Elomar are mentioned with some light biographical information.  The selected discography / musical recommendations are pretty out-of-date.  Some MPB selections are fab, but most recommendations for the Northeastern artists aren’t ideal.

Tropical Truth:  The Story Of Music And Revolution In Brazil - Caetano Veloso:  Not a book about forró, but a fascinating and passionate autobiography written by Caetano Veloso, a great songwriter and Tropicalia movement insider.