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Forro In the Dark

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Updating a beloved traditional musical style for a wider modern audience is a tricky proposition. Go too far and one runs the risk of offering either a weak simulacrum that simply adds a few semi-exotic musical idioms into safe, bland Western pop music. Don't go far enough and one is stuck with the increasingly common cop-out of simply slapping some drum loops and synths onto some old field recordings and calling it a fresh modern twist. Forro in the Dark do neither of these things. Formed by leader Mauro Refosco in 2002, originally as a one-off entertainment for his own birthday party, Forro in the Dark take the basic form of the Brazilian popular music style known as forro -- a percussion-heavy, accordion-led, intoxicatingly rhythmic dance music that is to northeastern Brazil as samba is to Rio de Janeiro -- and incorporate it into a cross-cultural stew that includes jazz and rock influences. Although a Forro in the Dark live performance can feature any number of guest artists, the core of the band for touring and recording purposes is Refosco on zabumba (the tuned drum that's at the heart of the style), guitarists Smokey Hormel (who also records and tours with Beck and Tom Waits, as well as his own albums as half of the bossa nova duo Smokey & Miho) and Guilherme Monteiro, reedman Jorge Continentino, and percussionists Gilmar Gomes and Davi Vieira. All six take part in the often chanted vocals. Forro in the Dark's debut album, Bonfires of São João, was released in November 2006 by Nublu Records, a small label connected with the Lower East Side club where the band maintained a long residency. Among the guests on the album were singers David Byrne, Bebel Gilberto, and Miho Hatori. Released in 2009, Light a Candle delivered more of the group's authentic yet eclectic take on forro. ~ Stewart Mason


2002 in New York, NY

Years Active: