Even for the people of the north-east, it is a difficult task to try and classify the numerous
folklore manifestations in existence, especially those found during the June festivities. Forró, xote, baião: could it be that these are different types of music? Different rhythms? Dances? Or variations of just one theme? These questions are best answered with our ears, rather than our reason. Throughout this section however, we will attempt to reveal some of the established conclusions (diverging and sometimes even curious) that have been reached concerning these questions.

Photo: Flávia Lacerda

This is not an easy undertaking, since the literature is scarce, and is limited to very few books and some thesis. (We would take this opportunity to encourage any interested researchers to make haste, since the field is vast and has been much ignored!)                                                                          Forrobodó, forrobodança, fobó. Ever since the last century, these terms have been documented by the press, as commonly used words to designate the places where popular dances, parties of the masses, took place. Years later, as a matter of convention, these places began to be called, simply - forró. This is the most probable origin of the word.              

According to the numerous song lyrics, the term indicates a place for 'fun and enjoyment'. It is particularly common, especially in the interior of the state, to hear people saying that they are going to 'so and so's forró'. This simply signifies that there is going to be a party in that particular person's house. Two musical compositions, 'Zé Antonio's Forró and ' and Mané Vito's Forró' by Ze Dantas and Luiz Gonzaga, make this meaning quite clear. Many nightclubs and dance halls also use the word as the name of the actual building - Forró Chic, Forró Classe A, etc.

For some time now, the meaning of the term forró, has been broadening, and has consequently become somewhat more generic. Within this term, it is now possible to contain a variety of rhythms and musical fusions, such as the xaxado, the rojão, the carimbó, the merengue, the baião and the xote.

We will take a glance at some of the peculiarities concerning the two final rhythms mentioned above - the baião and the xote..   

From the countryside to the whole of Brazil

"Eu vou mostrar pra vocês                                 " I am going to show you
como se dança um baião                                     how to dance the baião
e quem quiser aprender                                       and whoever wants to learn
é favor prestar atenção"                                       please pay close attention"

A 'desafio' is the name given to a particular kind of musical entertainment found in the northeast of Brazil. It is performed generally by two street singers with guitars. It is improvised and takes the form of a kind of musical competition between the two singers. In the past, the guitar solos that introduce the desafio, or that are played in the intervals between the verses, used to be called - baiano.

According to the historian Leonardo Dantas, the roots of today's baião are to be found in the fusion of  these short musical intervals and medieval tonal melodies used in the songs sung by blind people in the street markets of the Northeast. The researcher, José Ramos Tinhorão, reveals that for Lauro Maia, the musical composer from the state of Ceará, the baiano served as the basis for the creation of a new rhythm - the balanceio (a word that means the rhythmic balancing of dancing). This music went on to become a strong influence on northeastern music, and thus spread throughout the entire country. Humberto Teixeira, one of the greatest authorities on the subject of baião, when speaking about the sources of the music, synthesizes thus, " Verses by Rogaciano Leite....balanceio by Lauro Maia ......guitar played by the blind street singer Aderaldo....".

José Tinhorão informs us that, the first, time the word - baião - appeared in Brazilian recordings was in the 20's, when Jararaca (José Luús Rodrigues Calazans) recorded "The Northern Samba" by the Pernambuco composer Luperce Miranda.

At the beginning of the century, this rhythm was really only popular in the countryside of the North-east. However, from the 40's, it became nationally known thanks mainly to the work of the great musical master of the North-east Luiz Gonzaga. He was a composer, accordion player and singer, and was born in a small city called Exu in the state of Pernambuco. Luiz Gonzaga decided to leave his hinterland home to try and earn a living in the south of the country. Together with his traveling companions, the already mentioned Humberto Teixeira. and the doctor, Zé Dantas, he was responsible for interpreting the baião in such a manner that between the years 1946 and 1954 (considered the heyday of the baião), the rhythm became one of the most important and most played in the whole country. So much so that Luiz Gonzaga affectionately became known (until today, years after his death) the King of the Baião.  

Originally, the baião (together with other variations of Northeastern rhythms) did not have any kind of fixed instruments, nor a determined quantity of musicians. The rabeca (a kind of violin), the guitar, the accordion, and various percussion instruments were either played together or alternated with total liberty within the musical construction. However, for various reasons, ranging from the need to cut down expenses to the necessity of characterizing the rhythm visually and musically, it was Luiz Gonzaga who was responsible for the format of the now famous trio: the accordion in the center, the drum (zambumba) on the right and the triangle on the left. Although this format has become a typical model used by many, for some time now, the rhythm has also been interpreted by the new generation of electric instruments, such as the electric guitar, electric bass or keyboard etc., thus, bringing yet another aspect to this established model.

For those who were born in the North-east, the sound of the baião is a constant presence throughout the entire year. But, it is during the period of the June festivities that the rhythm really comes into its own. It is the most played and the most requested rhythm by all of those who frequent the clubs and the St. John's festivities.

Noitada de muita dança                                   Dancing the whole night long

"Minha morena venha pra cá                          "Come here my lovely dark skinned girl
pra dançar chotis                                              and dance *****
si deite in meu cangote                                    rest your head against my shoulder
e pode cochilar"                                               and if you want you can even doze."

During the
parties of the June festivities, when we hear the rhythm of the music winding down, becoming slower, unmistakably marked, we know in an instant that it is time for the xote (pronounced shotee). This cadenced rhythm is much loved by those who really appreciate an entire night of dancing. Who in this region, has never heard of "Cintura Fina" (Thin waist), "Riacho do navio" (the Stream of the ship), "O xote das meninas" (The Girls' xote)? All of these well known compositions make up part of the traditional repertoire, and have been interpreted numerous times by many popular Brazilian singers.

For the Folklore researcher, C
âmera Cascudo, the term xote derives from the German word - schottische - which, he adds," is a German melody, full of cadences and fun, almost as if it were custom-made for the character and taste of the Brazilian people". As with most of the fashionable trends brought from Europe, when this rhythm first arrived, it was restricted to only very the noblest of families. It was not very long however, before it became an extremely popular dance, and was a generally admired style of dancing by all. Today, it is the North-east where the dance is most commonly found, but it is also danced in other regions of the country.

Various singers have admired, and indeed still admire, this rhythm and incorporate it into their  compositions. Those who most stand out in this category are the singer Marinês, the instrumentalist and composer Dominguinhos, the composer Zé Dantas and of course the eternal Luiz Gonzaga. This last singer - Luiz Gonzaga, while not actually managing to reach the same heights he did with the baião, still managed to divulge the xote, and went on to become one of its greatest interpreters. To dance the xote, all you have to do is allow yourself to be taken over by the rhythm, slipping and sliding across the floor - two to the left, two to the left, very slowly, holding your arm tightly around the waist of your partner. And after that... well, just close your eyes and enjoy yourself......!