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Music as the Multiplier: Channeling Northeastern Brazil in New York

So how did an American girl of Japanese background like me became a forró DJ in New York?

My journey with forró started here in New York City, the summer of 2015. There was very little organization to the forró community then, with around 2 or 3 classes a month, and a much smaller group of people. We all shared the love for dancing, but it was very much “to each his own”. At that time, my main source of inspiration were videos of forró presentations from dance festivals in Brazil and Europe. I used to download the music from the videos, listen to them on my way to forró events and repeat the movements in my head. It wasn’t too long before my music library was taken over by the likes of Falamansa, Hino Malino, Bicho de Pé, and songs imported directly from the Youtube channel “Forró Stream”. There was a limit to what was available there, though. Eventually I hit a plateau stage where I felt like there should be more but I wasn’t “getting” it.

It wasn’t till the first time I traveled to my husband’s hometown, Belo Horizonte in Brazil, that I “met” forró in the flesh. I remember very clearly being in awe of hearing so much music that I had never heard before, seeing so many dancers with different dancing styles than in youtube videos I was used to, and experiencing how each dance would take on a completely different life depending on the rhythms that the DJs or bands would play. It was in that moment I realized that the forró I knew in New York was just one piece of a gigantic puzzle to understanding this living and breathing culture of forró.

With this newfound curiosity, I became obsessed with discovering more forró music. Whenever I found a new song I liked, I’d listen to it over and over again, imagining the dance in my head and becoming addicted to this “music high”. As a result, my forró music library kept growing, alongside this nudging feeling that I should be doing something to share all this music I was finding.

We have so many talented musicians in New York, but during the band intervals in any forró event, the same songs are played repeatedly. Aside from proactively looking on the internet, there was no other resource for forró music. Hence, when Cookie, one of the main forro event organizers in the city, approached me in August 2017 to DJ a new series of Saturday forró parties, I didn’t think twice to say yes. There was a need, and a demand, and “Djapa” came to life.

The first gig turned into the second, the second into the third, and I became the designated DJ for the Saturday parties. It was exhilarating to experience forró from this new perspective, where I was no longer just dancing, but taking part in the actual production. Seeing people dance during my sets reminds me why I fell in love with forró - the excitement, happiness, and creativity that dancing spurs. If I can do something to make other people fall even more in love with forró, I will do it, and DJ-ing gives me means to do so. I love seeing people get excited when their favorite song comes up, just as much as I love when someone asks me what was the song I just played. It motivates me to go even deeper, discover even more, and do my part to make our forró community even stronger.

Usually folk dance styles rarely leave their country or region, but this piece of northeastern Brazilian culture now has its own dedicated communities in every continent. What’s even more impressive is that forró culture continues to maintain the integrity of its humble origins no matter how far it travels from its motherland. In any given forró festival or dance event whether it’s in Hamamatsu, Paris, London or New York, you’ll always hear the songs of modern musicians (like Dona Zefa, Trio Juriti, O do Forro) amongst those of the original artists (like Dominguinhos, Mestre Zinho, Ary Lobo etc).

Music preferences and dance styles vary from group to group and it’s something I always keep in mind when selecting songs at dance events. I’m still learning, and it seems with forró that the more you learn, the more you find out how much more there is to know. I’ve recently started a mixcloud account to explore the different sounds of music across all forro generations, something I hope to share with the community on a regular basis.

Tiago's birthday party

My goal going forward is to connect even more people to forró through the music, in the hopes that they will find their own journey filled with amazing experiences, dances and friendships… even romance. With the forró in New York growing at such a rapid pace thanks to the dedicated efforts of our new teachers, organizers, musicians and community members, I’m certain that this is only the first chapter of so much more. May our adventures ahead as a community be as enriching and fulfilling as the next song that you dance to.

Additional Resources:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annri Araseki is a native of Georgia currently residing in New York as a professional in the Finance industry. She has been drawn to Brazilian culture since studying Linguistics in Florianopolis, Brazil in 2014. She enjoys all forms of creative expression, including dancing, DJing, reading, writing, designing, and traveling.

Edited by Rafael Piccolotto de Lima.

Revised by Mateusz Buczek.

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