Luiz Gonzaga (1912-1989) quit his job at the age of 14 (he never went to school), bought his first accordion with his money and decided to become a professional accordion player. His mother isn't too thrilled about it. Because of her, he often had secretly in the His father's accordion workshop, Januário, practiced. Excessive, as they say. After only three years and a few local appearances later, his youthful career ends again. The reason: Nazarene.
The father of his childhood sweetheart forbids the relationship between the two. The rebellious Luiz doesn't want to see that and causes a lot of trouble for both families. For this reason, at the age of 17, he ran away from home and left his birthplace of Exu (Pernambuco). He sells his beloved Sanfona and joins the military.
During this time he travels through Brazil with the other soldiers and learns a lot about popular Brazilian music. However, it was years before he got his hands on an accordion again. At the age of 24 he finally bought one with 48 basses. Since he is only used to 8 bass buttons (= bass tones) from his home in the northeast, he takes lessons first. At the time, there was no way of knowing that one day he would become one of the best-known musicians in Brazil.
The night that changes everything...
After 9 years, Luiz retired from the army (legend has it he never fired a single shot). Armed with a new, larger accordion and a ticket for the boat trip home, he arrives in Rio de Janeiro. While waiting for his ship, he discovers Mangue, a hectic bar district. To earn some extra money, Luiz plays popular Brazilian music there, but has only moderate success. Until one evening a group of students asked him to play something from his home country.
Luiz initially rejects the request, he hasn't played anything like this for a long time. He doesn't forget it, however, and a few days later he plays music from his childhood for the first time in a long time. He plays right at the beginning “Vira e Mexe” (see below in the video – later, with lyrics, it became “Xamego”) and the bar immediately goes wild. This evening is the turning point: From now on, Luiz wants to focus on music from his homeland.
Singing is forbidden!
Thanks to the first successes, Luiz now finds a job in radio. However, music from home is not welcome, let alone singing. Luiz's north-eastern dialect was too strong for the radio bosses. His first records (early 1940s) are therefore instrumental. In the bars, however, Luiz begins to sing. He asserted himself: in 1945 his first record with accordion and vocals was released (on it: the mazurca “Dança Mariquinha”). However, there is no success.
That only changed when Luiz found the lawyer Humberto Teixeira meets. Already at their first meeting they start to write the xote “No meu pé de serra” (see video below left). With the piece “Baião” (see video below right) they compose dance music and thus achieve their breakthrough. Although Luiz continues to work with other artists and producers, it works best with Humberto Teixeira. With him he later lands his biggest hit.
Not the inventor and yet a genius
The Baião existed in the northeast long before Luiz Gonzaga. However, it is he who defines it more precisely and makes it suitable for the general public. From around 1946, Luiz included an instrument in his ensemble, which was later dated Forro (and its subgenres) should be indispensable: the Zabumba. The triangle soon follows. The trio is economically and acoustically balanced (low, middle & high sounds). In addition, triangle and zabumba are a further development of the tambourine used up to then. They make the music more 'danceable'. Luiz also developed his visual appearance further: his mother sent him a cangaceiro hat (cangaceiro = bandit). This becomes his trademark and from now on visually reminds the listener of the north-east.
Luiz Gonzaga does the Baiao as Musikgenre known throughout Brazil and quickly finds imitators. Soon enough, he will be called by the media King of the Baião titled. But that was not the only genre that Luiz establishes: on every record he names the genre under the song title. Luiz categorizes his songs into, among others Xote, Xaxado, Forró, Coco, Arrasta-Pé and of course Baião. A Toada, however, becomes his most famous work: “Asa Branca”. At first, Luiz finds the song too slow and too melancholic. Humberto Teixeira, who contributes to the text, convinces him of the classic potential. In fact, it is melancholy that conquers the Brazilian people, especially the Northeast. It becomes the anthem of the Northeast.
The Legacy of Luiz Gonzaga
Luiz Gonzaga's career is at its peak in the late '40s and early '50s. After that comes a cultural shift and with it the bossa nova. Due to the reduced interest, he even announced his retirement in 1967 (“Hora do Adeus”) . But it doesn't take long before he celebrates his comeback. In the 1980s, its popularity experienced a major upswing. He produced a total of 627 songs on 266 records until his death at the age of 76. Just a few years after his death, the wave of Forró Universitários began in Brazilian universities. The legacy of this legend from the small town of Exu in northeastern Brazil lives on. At the moment, it's probably bigger than ever.
Without Luiz Gonzaga there would probably be none today Forro, at least not in that much of the world, and not as we know it. He didn't invent the forró, but he gave it a form and showed him to Brazil (and to the world). Therefore, December 13 (his birthday) is National Forró Day in Brazil. viva Luiz!
great that you are committed to a broader understanding of the history of forro. I have some comments on the text. Where does Luiz come from, it's best to include it right at the beginning. What were the social conditions like, why didn't anyone want to hear the music from the northeast at first? What was it then that moved... etc. Name the social perspective of Forro even more precisely. Otherwise a few vague terms… call if you need support.