Travel Brazil

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Forró in Brazil: Under a Full Moon, Dancing to the Beat of the Zabumba

ABOUT a mile down a cobblestone road from the Vitória gas station, on a moonlit ranch outside São José de Mipibu, a town of negligible importance in northeast Brazil, three men in shiny blue and silver cowboy outfits made music with an accordion, a jangling triangle and a deep-throated zabumba drum.
They were hardly alone. Hundreds of blue-jeans clad young people, mostly from the nearby city of Natal, drank beer, held hands, laughed and made out in a corral-inspired courtyard. Hundreds more couples jammed a dance floor under a thatched roof, locking right thighs to perform a dance that is at once sensual and herky-jerky, a combination that could have emerged only from Brazilian cowboy culture.
The group, Os 3 do Nordeste, was playing forró, Brazilian country music born in the northeastern sertão — dry, cactus-filled, backwoods cattle country — and spread far and wide in the late 1940's by Luiz Gonzaga, the singer, songwriter and accordion master who moved to Rio de Janeiro and made the song "Asa Branca" an international hit.
Since then, it has come in and out of fashion, but after a revival in the 90's it has settled into a hip-to-be-square-dancing mainstream acceptance (in fact, Brazil celebrated its first National Forró Day on Dec. 13). Samba and bossa nova are the international face of Brazilian music, and funk from the favelas may be all the rage in Rio, but even fashionable clubs cannot resist putting on a forró or two as the evening winds down.
In the northeast, though, forró is king. There, the accordion, triangle and zabumba fill nightclubs in the major cities every day of the week, and every June during the festival of São João, transform towns that are usually just dots on the map into musical epicenters that draw thousands of visitors into an accordion-inspired frenzy.
If you're planning a trip to Brazil to hear forró, there are a few things you should know. First is the pronunciation: it's faw-HAW. Next, although you can find forró clubs in most Brazilian cities, the northeast is really the place to go. The two biggest cities in the region, Recife and Fortaleza, are both forró hubs; I chose Recife so I could squeeze in a visit to Caruaru and Campina Grande, two small cities also known for their forró traditions. Then there is the definition. It's a slippery term, and can mean different things depending on who your source is. Mine was Sérgio Gonzaga, nephew of the famous Luiz.
Sérgio, a 51-year-old forró purist with curly salt-and-pepper hair, broke it down for me. On the side of good is traditional forró, known as pé-de-serra, or foot-of-the-mountain. Based around the trio of accordion, triangle and zabumba, it is old-fashioned, good ol' boy forró, what Bo and Luke Duke would have listened to had they been Brazilian. On the tacky side is forró estilizado, the stylized pop music version played by groups like Calcinha Preta, full of electronic sounds with the accordion relegated to a secondary role. It's "not part of the sertão culture, not part of its history," Sérgio said. And Calcinha Preta, after all, means "Black Panties," not exactly evocative of country roots.
A bit more acceptable, he said, is forró universitário, generally associated with college kids and groups like Rastapé and Falamansa that still focuses on traditional instruments but with a smoother sound.
Around midnight at Sala de Reboco, in Recife, I knew from the buzz of activity — the line of taxis outside, the vendors roasting meat and selling beer — that I had come to a forró hot spot. At the door, there was no pretense of snobbery, no line to enter or to get one of the tickets that bartenders mark to keep track of your tab. There was just a wave of heat radiating from the dance floor.
Inside, I found something like an artsy barn-in-the-city with a slightly self-conscious touch of cool. It was a cavernous space full of old wood beams, white plastic tables and chairs, and a sizable dance floor and stage on the far side. The young people in jeans were unintimidating, far different from the tanner-than-thou skin-baring set at clubs in Rio.
Marking everyone's ticket as they ordered, bartenders tossed out Antarctica beers and the occasional whiskey, and a slushy orange-colored frozen drink from a machine. It turned out to be vodka with what a helpful local explained was "a fruit we have around here that's called a tangerine."
Couples who could not penetrate the densely packed dance floor danced around tables covered in empty beer cans, drink glasses and cigarette butts, frat-party style. The volume of the sound system was completely bearable, halfway between department store Musak and a rave. You could converse without shouting, which was a good thing, because my dancing ability alone wasn't going to win me many friends.

Published: May 7, 2006

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

When to go to Brazil

Tavel to Brazil

Most of Brazil can be visited comfortably throughout the year; it's only the south - which can be unbearably sticky in summer (December-February) and non-stop rainy in winter (June-August) - that has large seasonal changes; the rest of the country experiences brief tropical rains throughout the year, which rarely affect travel plans.

During summer (December-February) many Brazilians are on vacation, making travel difficult and expensive, and from Rio to the south the humidity can be oppressive. Summer is also the most festive time of year, as Brazilians escape their apartments and take to the beaches and streets. School holidays begin in mid-December and go through to Carnaval, usually held in late February.

Although there are festivals taking place all year-round in Brazil, the country's most famous event is Carnaval, beginning at midnight on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and lasting for five days. It is celebrated all over Brazil and there are more authentic versions than the glitzy tourist draw card held in Rio, but Rio's is a fantastic spectacle nonetheless. In the sambódromo, a tiered street designed for samba parades, the Brazilians harness sweat, noise and mayhem as the 16 top samba schools each have their hour of glory.

When to go

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Brazil is the largest country in South America. It borders every other country of the continent except Chile and Ecuador.

Brazil is very much a country of contrasts. When someone hears the word Brazil, one thinks of the great Amazon forest, fantastic beaches, great soccer players, Carnival time - and that's all. Well, Brazil, the most important country in South America, certainly has MUCH more to offer - a warm and happy people, great cities with everything from slums to high technology, a wide range of weather patterns, an awesome mixture of cultures and races - and much more!

The most interesting places to visit in Brazil includes Fernando de Noronha Island, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo (the two bustling megacities of the south-east), the more relaxed city of Salvador in the northeast, or the old colonial towns of Ouro Preto and Olinda. For natural beauty, try a visit to Iguaçu Falls. If you have the chance the best time to visit is Carnival. There is nothing in the whole wide world like Carnival in Rio. Brasilia: great architecture and city planning.

The most up-and-coming resort in Brazil is now the small friendly Praia de Pipa, in the NE of the country; serviced by international airports at Natal & Recife, this small town is popular with both Brazilians and foreign tourists. The laid back attitude of the open and friendly locals make this a welcome change to some of the more recognised but less safe and inviting destinations.

Southern Brazil in speciall the state of Santa Catarina, is being searched every year by people who prefers not too visited spots like major cities or places where all tourists go. Small beaches like Mariscal, Garopaba, Taquaras or Estaleiro beach are not too distants from medium size cities with all necessary structure, but at the same time still conserve their natural enchantments. Praia do Pinho, (close to Balneario Camboriú city - the most important touristic spot in southern Brazil) is the paradise for naturist as it is the first official nude beach in Brazil Many options of adventure activities such as rafting, diving, fishing, trekking, are aso available in this beautiful region.

Brazil for Carnaval

Want to go to Carnaval?! The dates change from year to year. Check the schedule for Rio de Janeiro's Carnaval Dates. To get to any of the carnaval locations, you'll need travel arrangements. Compare and select flights from your area. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.