If you ever visit a northeastern Brazilian city such as Recife, you'll quickly learn that forró is the official dance of the region. It's also become one of the most popular ways to cut a rug on New York City's Lower East Side thanks to Forró in the Dark, four Brazilian expats whose rhythms are so hot that they've made fans and collaborators out of Talking Heads' David Byrne and Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori. They open for Gogol Bordello at Overture Center on Oct. 31.
I spoke with sax and flute player Jorge Continentino about where this sensational style of music and dance comes from and, of course, how to move to it.
How did Forró in the Dark get together?
Forró in the Dark was a collaboration band started in 2002 in a birthday party for [drummer] Mauro Refosco at this club in NYC called Nublu. I say "collaboration band" because lots of people played in Forró in the Dark. After the birthday party, they decided to play every week at the club. Playing that kind of music was a big sensation in the city, and it felt great for the musicians. So people started to come down to dance, and the movement was started.
What surprised you the most about the process of making your 2009 album Light a Candle?
We tried to make an album that would sound as close as it could [to] what we are playing live. We [did] 14 tracks in five days of studio. It was a surprise for us to do it so fast.
How would you describe forró music to someone who has never heard it before?
The word "forró" itself is hard to explain. My point of view is that "forró" means "party." It's a party where they play basically three different rhythms: Xote (a slow tempo that feels like a reggae or dub), Baio (that's medium tempo and feels like a cumbia sometimes) and "Arrasta-pé" (a fast tempo which is a lot like a polka).
How would you describe how to dance to it?
I'd say, "Two steps this way, two steps that way!" Of course, you will have a blast using whatever you know.