Gilberto Gil, one of the all-time greatest Brazilian musicians, is coming to LA Tuesday, October 23rd, for an all-forró show. Forró is country party music from northeastern Brazil in the state of Pernambuco. The origins of the word vary according of who you talk to: one camp says it comes from a Hungarian word with the same spelling that means “burning hot”. In the 1940s, perhaps because of Hitler, there were thousands of Hungarian immigrants coming to Brazil. Another expert says it comes from the word forrobodó, meaning “great party”. The most agreed-on explanation involves British railway engineers who threw parties on the weekend and passed out food and alcohol to workers and residents. The Americans repeated this during World War II at the airbase they used to send out B-17 across the Atlantic to fight Rommel in North Africa…..these big lumbering planes didn’t have enough range from U.S. bases.
And so the Brits and the Americans said the festivities, food, and alcohol were for all, hence the word.
Forró is fun, party music. Luiz Gonzaga was the king of forró, with his funny hat and sanfona, or button accordion.
Gil is a giant. He was thrown out from Brazil during the dictatorship along with his Tropicalia colleague Caetano Veloso; it was either prison or an invitation to leave the country. They first landed in Lisbon, but moved to London, where the action was in the late 1960s.
Gil returned to Brazil to make Grammy-winning albums (several) and become Minister of Culture under Lula da Silva’s government. He has a fondness for forró. Many snooty cariocas say they don’t like country music, but in secret they’re listening to it. There should be a good crowd of them at Disney Hall for this upcoming show.
Here is Luiz Gonzaga singing and dancing forró in a vintage film clip: