Forró music is the heartbeat of Northeast Brazil. Born in the sertao, the arid interior of the region, forró was formed by the many traditions, cultures, and musical styles of the Northeast. With influences from Africans, Portuguese, and Native Americans, forro is uniquely Brazilian.
European button accordion music was melded to African-based rhythms to create forro pe-de-serra (traditional forro) played on accordion, triangle, and zabumba (a low drum worn at an angle).
Forró is danced by couples locked in a sensual embrace and has three main rhythms: baiao, xote, and arrasta-pe.
Mass migrations of poor people from the Northeast to cities in southern Brazil, escaping misery, carried forro with them.
One of the most famous of these migrants was accordionist Luiz Gonzaga who was born in 1912 in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. His father, Januario, played button accordion or oito baixos and was also an accordion builder and repairman. Luiz learned to play the oito baixos and then the piano accordion.
Luiz left the Northeast and ended up in Rio de Janeiro where he pursued a career as a musician, and ended up performing regularly on the radio playing waltzes, fox trots, sambas, and tangos. He felt the need to express his own culture, and roots, and to sing about the experiences of the displaced Northeastern immigrants working in the southern cities. He became a tremendous national success, striking a chord in the hearts of Brazilians, and popularizing forro throughout the country.