FORRO IN THE DARK
If Forro in the Dark is serious about anything, it’s the party. These four Brazilian New Yorkers start with Brazilian forro and end with a groove that means good times in any language or genre. With their latest EP, “Dia de Roda,” the band ups the ante on their global dance party flavor. Sexy, laugh-out-loud, their unique hybrid jam is a trademark blend of country soul and urban funk. Whether singing about Rastafarianism, Robin Hood, or the Roda, in English or in Portuguese, they charge every note with a palpable energy that needs no translation. Their forro-inspired beats conjure a sonic atmosphere that draws today’s jazz aficionados and techno-loving clubgoers onto the dancefloor together.
Forro in the Dark might be the Pied Piper of downtown New York pelvises. Give them half an ear, and your hips will take over and start rolling to their Brazilian roots rock. They’re a little afro-beat, a little country western swing, a little dub, and all rock and roll, fueled by the insistent rhythm of forr. True to their roots, they dig ever deeper into the sounds of northeastern Brazil, while also cannibalizing other styles, drawing from all the influences available to them as artists traveling on global currents. Ultimately their music is all their own magic, spinning out spontaneous and loose, an intoxicating invitation to have a beer and find some love in the dark.
The skeleton of the band’s sound is the syncopated rhythm of forro, which is familiar to Brazilians as the toe-tapping backdrop to a long workday, a folk party in the Northeast, and the sound spilling out from hip dance halls in the wee hours. The upbeat tunes contrast with the lyrics’ serious themes: Forro songs romanticize the harsh and unforgiving sertao of Brazil’s northeast, giving voice to the migrant’s melancholy lament and the country bandit’s ballad.
Forro in the Dark pays homage to this playful and emotional genre’s rich history, while also thinking about 2008 and making party music for today’s global village. Notably, they look beyond the simple accordion, zabumba, and triangle instrumentation popularized by the great forro artist, Luiz Gonzaga. Abandoning the accordion, they’ve added Jorge’s pifano, a wooden flute from the Northeast of Brazil, Guilherme’s twangy guitar, and Davi’s timbau, a Bahian drum. The new additions float between the beat of Mauro’s zabumba, a drum with both snare and bass pitches, and the tweet of Davi’s triangle. The revised line-up takes off with a sound that straddles the musical frontier between the dusty Brazilian sertao and New York City’s urban landscape. Still, they stay true to the best of forro: making a soundtrack for the hip-swerving all-night dance party from which forro music originally gets its name.
The seed of the band was born at a party for Mauro’s birthday at Nublu, a club in New York’s East Village, where he invited some friends to jam, forro-style. The rural dance sound was such a hit that they started a weekly residency. The band’s current cast solidified for 2006’s “Bonfires of Sao Joao,” an addictive exploration of the forro form with downtown New York influences, featuring David Byrne, Bebel Gilberto, and Miho Hatori as guest vocalists. Forro in the Dark spent 2007 touring throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Latin America in support of “Bonfires,” spreading their good vibes over the globe. They garnered critical acclaim for their innovative sound, and new audiences fell in love with their energetic live shows. On that period they still found time to record the song “City Of Immigrants” on Steve Earl’s Grammy awarded album “Washington Square Serenade”. Only two months after returning to New York, they were ready to go back into the studio. They recorded an EP over three days at Super Legal Studios in uptown Manhattan, rotating the songwriting duties as well as the practical jokes. 2008 promises even wider horizons, with more touring in Europe and the Americas, giving ever more listeners the chance to join Forro in the Dark’s never-ending global party.
Latest EP: “Dia de Roda” (“Day of the Gathering”)
“Dia de Roda” showcases what’s important to Forro in the Dark’s magic: laughs, good times, and, as always, the party. The opening track, “Nonsensical,” is penned by Davi and reveals his opinion of a man he once met who thought Bob Marley’s music was overrated. The infectious chorus says it all: “If you don’t like Bob Marley/You better stay away from me!” The second track mellows the energy with an instrumental xote. Entitled “Lost in the Ballroom,” and written by Guilherme, the gently humorous tune meditates on the feeling of spending a long blurry night at a forro and not finding the right girl to dance with. Next comes “Chororo,” (“Crying”) a fast-paced baiao by Mauro with the help of his colleagues. It tells the classic forro story of a worker who leaves the sertao, promising his girl he’ll come back home, but in place of the usual melancholy, it’s tone is optimistic and care-free. Following “Chororo” is the title track, Jorge’s “Dia de Roda.” Built on a toada rhythm and featuring spoken word by Davi, the song’s only lyrics could be Forro In the Dark’s mantra: “Today’s the party/I can be a vagabond!” The EP closes with a cover of “Sebastiao,” a weird and wonderful folk song from the soundtrack to Glauber Rochas’ 1964 Cinema Novo classic, “Black God, White Devil.” About a saint who gives his followers the ability to perform miracles, in the able hands of Forro in the Dark the song turns into a party anthem, replete with high pitched squeals, guitar licks, and lively percussion.
Forro in the Dark is Mauro Refosco on Zabumba and Vocals; Davi Vieira on Percussion and Vocals; Guilherme Monteiro on Guitar and Vocals; and Jorge Continentino on Pifano, Baritone Sax and Vocals.
The members come to the table with undeniable musical chops, whether from a lifetime of jazz training and performance (Jorge and Guilherme), a classical conservatory background and work in the Downtown avant-garde scene (Mauro), or a decade performing in the off-Broadway show Stomp! and a solo hip hop funk career (Davi).
Photos by Vladimir Radojicic