FridaysUpdate: Forro in the Dark wants you to dance at Fridays
What do 19th century Brazilian workers and Charlottesville music aficionados have in common? Nothing– except the need to occasionally kick back and dance. Enter Forro in the Dark, which enlivens Fridays After Five this week by playing a traditional form of Brazilian dance music called forro using modern instrumentation.
"There is no band, even in Brazil, with a sound like we have– mixing traditional instruments with electric guitars, surf music, African, country-western, rock," guitarist Guilherme Monteiro says. "We go to the core of all these styles."
Forro (pronounced foe-hoe) music stemmed from small-town parties in Northeastern Brazil, where workers would leave their hardships at the door and enter into a sexual, fast-paced world of dance. There are several variants: xote, a slower, romantic dance; baiao, a faster dance; arrasta-pe, a dance with a double-time beat– and all are supposed to be danced hip-to-hip. Traditional forro is played with merely an accordion, a triangle, and and a percussion instrument called a zambuba, which at this point is the only remaining traditional instrument in the band's lineup.
"We draw from that tradition of forro, and then basically mix it with whatever we feel like," admits Montiero; that can include anything from Brazilian flutes to jazz guitar, hip-hop to Afro-Cuban.
The band comprises four native Brazilians, but only Monteiro and flutist Jorge Continentino knew each other in Brazil.
"It was something that happened very naturally– no one thought, 'Let's do a band and let's do forro music'," Monteiro says. "It's still very organic– we don't think too much– we have a pretty strong aesthetic confidence and we're musicians that have studied our craft."
Over the years, the band members have all worked with top-notch rock, jazz, and Brazilian artists. Band leader Mauro Refosco frequently collaborates with new wave legend David Byrne, who also appeared on Forro’s debut album; other band members have recorded with Santana and Enrique Iglesias. But their common love of forro – both as children in Brazil and more recently with their friends in New York –- was too compelling to brush aside.
"I never thought I would be in a forro band, but if I could choose one to play in, it would be this band," Monteiro says. "Forro sounds the way I want it to."