21 December 2006

Forro For All! (CD Review)

Forro in the Dark: Bonfires of Sao Joao
Nublu Records

buy CD/hear samples
listen on band website

Forro, my Brazilophile friend Juli tells me (and Wikipedia confirms, sort of), is a Brazilian musical style, the word for which is derived from English. It stems from dances that were held "for all," and mutated from there. And mutated is a good description of the sound of Forro in the Dark, a NYC-based band that has caught the ears of both myself and David Byrne.

Yes, the Brazil-loving singer/producer has his thumb stuck in this pie, singing on the tracks "Asa Branca" and "I Wish (Bundle of Contradictions)." But the real story starts long before your hear Byrne's distinctive tones. The album opens with "Indios do Norte," a rush of bass, triangle, and raspy guitar, with an irresistible melody played by Jorge Continentino's pifanos (a breathy Brazilian flute).

It's a little hard to pin down the band's style, which wanders from the high-energy opening to Bebel Gilberto's guest appearance on the soft bilingual "Wandering Swallow." Then there's the calypso-esque call and response of "Que Que Tu Fez," and the campy country feel of "I Wish..." and back to two energetic instrumental/chant pieces to close out the project.

Byrne talks about the collaboration in his online journal:

I sang “Asa Branca” and “I Wish” — the latter song emerged out of a jam. I was warming up with some chord changes and Mauro suggested during the recording session that we all improvise around those chords. The result was surprisingly good — but, maybe because I can, I suggested that with just a few words added, with a vocal, the song might be more focused. The lyrics and vocal turned it into a vaguely Country outpouring of pain, anger and loss — which maybe made explicit the link between forró and north American country music.

Variety, energy, and the promise that Forro in the Dark is even better in a sweaty crowd make me wish I could catch them live at Nublu in NYC. Perhaps they'll tour; on the basis of this crazy, wonderful album, I encourage you to encourage them.

Addendum: Rob of Rob Curto's FORRÓ FOR ALL got in touch after seeing the headline for this post. No, we weren't referring to his group ('cause we didn't know it existed), but we believe forró is big enough for, well, all. Visit his site and say hi...if he sends his music, you may hear more about him on a future SoundRoots episode.

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