Dances and Musical Rhythms of the Northeast

Dances and Musical Rhythms of the Northeast
Dances and Musical Rhythms of the Northeast

The dances and musical rhythms of the northeast are very varied. Some even have a national character, spreading throughout the country.

The coconut is another well-known dance in the northeast, being practiced and danced on the coast and in the sertão.

It is a dance with formation in circles or rows, in which the participants dance in pairs or alone, the “tirador” sings a melodic line and the dancers then repeat.

The name of the dance originated in the movement of breaking the coconut, and it is said that Virgulino Ferreira da Silva, known as Lampião, was one of the most famous coconut dancers in the region.

Another well-known typical dance is the frevo, a trademark of Pernambuco. Its name seems to have originated from the term “boil”, due to its “hot rhythm” and lively, with fast and well-ornamented steps.

There are also other dances and musical rhythms in the northeast, such as Samba de Matuto, Xaxado, Baião, Forró, Xote and marchinha junina (or drag).

Video explaining the difference in the dances and musical rhythms of the Northeast

See the following dances and musical rhythms from the northeast

Samba de Matuto

Samba de Matuto
Samba de Matuto

A procession dance, without plot or drama, in which the songs danced make reference to Catholic saints, to spirits of Afro-Brazilian religions and those of everyday life. It has a clear identification with the Xangô terreiros.

Before each performance, the master lights three dots (candles) so that the orixás allow the revelry to proceed smoothly.

In the coastal cities of Passo de Camaragibe, Porto de Pedras and São Miguel dos Milagres, during the carnival period, we will find a high incidence of Samba-de-Matuto.

Matuto's Samba, with its carnival origins, has no plot.

Has a relationship with the maracatus Pernambuco and is a kind of danced song that speaks of Catholic saints and, above all, of religious entities of African origin.

As in Pastoril, it has two cords: blue and red. It is common to make, at the opening of each presentation, a greeting to the orixás. The members of Samba de Matuto wear blouses and full skirts.


It is known by the name of xaxado, a rhythm and dance typical of the northeast of Brazil, with roots in the customs of the local sertanejo, originating in the regions of Pajeú and Moxotó in the interior of Pernambuco and evident characteristics extracted from indigenous cultures.

Its name is attributed to the onomatopoeic sound that the dancers make with the espadrilles dragged on the floor during the dance, sounding “xa-xa-xa”.


There is also a version that the name xaxado is derived from the word “xaxar”, a corruption of sachar (to dig the earth with the sacho, to weed). Farmers weed the beans by gathering the soil with a small hoe at the foot of the stem of the bud when it is just a few days old.

Checking the movements of the feet of someone who is handling a hoe, clearing weeds in the fields or a xaxado, is similar to those of someone who is dancing the basic xaxado.

The “paternity” of the xaxado is also a matter of considerable controversy, as some authors claim that it is an adaptation of Portuguese dances; others claim to be a recreation of indigenous dances, and there are still several sources who believe that the cangaceiros, in particular the gang of Lampião, were the creators of xaxado.

In fact, the first research on the rhythm dates back to 1922, when it was practiced in the Agreste and Sertão regions of Pernambuco.

Os cangaceiros they have the merit of being the main promoters of xaxado, as they used dance as a battle cry or to celebrate victories.

Using the rifle to replace the woman, the dance was exclusively practiced by men (even because at the time women still did not participate in groups of cangaceiros, a situation that would change shortly after with the inclusion of Maria Bonita and other women in Lampião's band).

Over the years, women have gained their space in the game. Because of this dissemination, xaxado is closely linked to cangaço, and even innovations in dance ended up appearing within the various cangaceiro groups.

Thus, nowadays xaxado is performed in pairs, and groups dance generally accompanied by sets of fife, zabumba, triangle and accordion, although xaxado originally does not have any accompaniment, being predominantly vocal, with the sound of espadrilles dragged on the floor acting as a percussion instrument, dictating the rhythm of the dance.

The movements of the xaxado are presented in a row, a clear sign of indigenous influence, without turning around, advancing the right foot in three or four movements to the sides and pulling the left foot, in a quick and dragging tap dance.

Origin of the Baião Rhythm

The baião is a kind of choreography developed while singing to this rhythm, popular especially in the Brazilian Northeast.

It comes from one of the modalities of lundu – a musical style generated by the rumble of African drumming produced by Bantu slaves from Angola, brought by force to Brazil.

O Rei do Baião - accordionist and composer Luiz Gonzaga
O Rei do Baião – accordionist and composer Luiz Gonzaga

At first he was known as baiano, as he descended from the verb 'baiar', which popularly referred to 'bailar' or 'baiar', expressions translated in Brazil as bailar.

This sonority was generated by northeastern people from a mixture of African choreography with those cultivated by natives, added to the dance practiced in the metropolis. It was, therefore, a synthesis of the three cultures, much exercised throughout the XNUMXth century.

In the 40s, especially after 1946, baião gained new momentum with the intervention of the brilliant accordionist and composer Luiz Gonzaga, taking on a new tonality with the somewhat unconscious incorporation of the characteristics of Cuban samba and congas.

With this new feature, this sound transcended the bolero itself, spread throughout the country and even crossed the country's borders.

Only in southern Brazil did the baião have some minor changes. While normally the dancer indicates his replacement in the choreography with an umbilicus, in this region the dancer chooses another person by snapping his fingers, simulating the touch of a castannet.

The main instrument to accompany the baião is the accordion, often complemented by the agogô and the triangle; over time it became customary to use an orchestra.

The great musical success of this rhythm occurred with the recording of the song entitled Baião, composed by Luiz Gonzaga and Humberto Teixeira.

In this song, the authors invite listeners to discover how the baião is danced, and highlight its original characteristics. Gonzagão, as he was known, continues to compose other songs in this rhythm, and thus takes this sound to the height of success.

In the 50's, several singers joined this rhythm, among them Marlene, Emilinha Borba, Ivon Curi.

Luiz Gonzaga was considered the 'King of Baião', while Carmélia Alves was the 'Queen', Claudete Soares the 'Princess' and Luiz Vieira the 'Prince'.

The baião is always choreographed by pairs, who develop the steps known as swings, heel steps, kneeling step and twirl. Women usually wear dresses made of common calico, adorned with ruffles on the skirts and with generous necklines and short sleeves. They usually wear sandals with many colors. Meanwhile, men wear pale denim pants, plain shirts and rawhide sandals.

After some time kept on the margins of musical history, the baião resurfaced in the late 70s, thanks to the rescue carried out by musicians of the caliber of Dominguinhos, Zito Borborema, João do Vale, Quinteto Violado, among others.

Furthermore, this rhythm decisively inspired the tropicalist style of Gilberto Gil and the rock of Raul Seixas, which united these two sounds, naming the result of this fusion Baioque.

Forró its origins and its history

Forró and samba have the same roots, that is, both originated from a mixture of African and European influences. “In Northeastern music, an indigenous touch, a European touch, an African flavor; just taste it…” already quoted one of the experts on the subject.

However, the origin of the word forró is controversial. It is true that the rhythm was born in the Northeast and was introduced to the South of the country by Luis Gonzaga in the 40's. But when, where and how he appeared there in the sertão is still, in a way, a mystery that has divided many scholars and musicians.

There is the most popular version of its origin, even turned into a song by Geraldo Azevedo in 1982, “For All” Para Todos: that the name would come from the words “For All” (in English “for all”).

The phrase was written on the doors of balls promoted by the English in Pernambuco, at the beginning of the century, when they came here to build railroads. If the sign was there, it was a sign that everyone could join the party, with dancing rhythms that foreshadowed today's forró, and that was the version defended by Luiz Gonzaga.

All kinds of music were played at these dances, as well as the precursor rhythm of today's forró.

The second version is given by historian and popular culture researcher Luís da Câmara Cascudo, who says that the origin is the African term “forrobodó”, which would mean party, mess.

In some small towns in the country (such as Ilha Grande-RJ or Ilha do Mel-PR) forró means popular dance or drag, where everyone dances.

We can didactically divide forró into:

1. As a dance and music rhythm: baião, xote, xaxado, coco, square dances:


Baião dates back to the XNUMXth century, in the northeast of the country, but precise information about this beginning is lacking. According to some, the word comes from “baiano”.

The baião came from lundu and was danced in a circle; one of those present urged the others to dance by means of navels and taps of castanets. The popularization of the rhythm started in the 40s, with Luiz Gonzaga, a native of Pernambuco who came to Rio de Janeiro and recorded countless songs, which spoke of everyday life in the Northeast.


The xote has a rhythm of European origin that emerged from the aristocratic salons of the Regency period – late XNUMXth century. Known originally with the name schottisch, it dominated in the period of the Second Reign, later incorporating itself to the popular urban functions, becoming known as chotis and finally xote. It left urban salons to join rural regions, where it often appears under other denominations.


The name xaxado comes from the sound the shoes made on the floor when dancing; is a dance from Pernambuco's rural and backlands, initially performed only by men, dating back to the 20s. The accompaniment was purely vocal, with a simple melody, a light rhythm, and aggressive and satirical lyrics. It became popular by the outlaws of Lampião's group.


Coconut is a circle dance from the north and northeast of Brazil, a fusion of black and cabocla musicality. It is believed that he was born on the beaches, hence his name. The rhythm underwent several changes with the appearance of the baião in the caatingas and wild. As the composer who popularized the rhythm, we can mention Jackson do Pandeiro.

QJuninas tiles

The gangs in June are rural in nature, from the European tradition, from the fire cult, prior to Christianity. The Christian Church adapted the feast of St. John to absorb the pagan agrarian cults.

In Brazil, the party is accompanied by a lot of music and dancing: the quadrilha (the dance of the European Courts), the baião, the xote, among others.

2. As a musical style: traditional forró (Luiz Gonzaga style), forró malícia (Genival Lacerda style), Forró Eletrônico or “Oxentemusic” (Mastruz com Leite style), university forró (Fala Mansa style).

Forró had its “first resurrection” initially in the mid-90s, with some changes from its original profile with the emergence of new musical groups: “Most of these groups were formed after the lambada fever and the music they make is called lambaforró.

The dance has also changed, assimilating lambada steps (mainly the giros)” he says. Dominguinhos.

From 2000 onwards, there was a second resurrection of forró with the “university forró” that emerged among university students in São Paulo and in the region of Itaúnas in Espírito Santo, all young people who rediscovered the romantic and melodic style of Luiz Gonzaga's xotes and began to emerge bands that are now recognized as Fala Mansa, Rastapé and many others.

The dance is “glued” and also has distant variations and there is a great sway of the body.

We can conclude, therefore, that forró is a melting pot of cultures from different periods and regions that changes and adapts to each generation. It is important to remember that forró initially designated only the dancing party or ball and the place where it took place. Only later did it become a musical and dance genre that encompasses several variations.

The genre has spread across the country and is now almost a national passion.


Xote is a binary rhythm, widely played in northeastern Brazil, but which has gained national reach and is now played from north to south.

Xote is a danceable musical rhythm performed by several singers and forró ensembles. It is a dance rhythm that is often played in June festivals in several states of the Brazilian Northeast.

The gaucho xote is a variation of the rhythm, played in the extreme south of Brazil.

The word xote originated from the German word “schottisch”, which means Scottish, as the dance was initially a reference to the Scottish polka.

The “schottisch” arrived in Brazil in 1851, through the Portuguese José Maria Toussaint. Initially it was only disseminated among the elite, but it didn't take long for the slaves to become interested, and through observations, they ended up adapting the choreography to their own way, with more turns and movements, becoming known under the name of xotis or xote.

The xote has become a typical dance in the Northeast of Brazil. It is played by a band composed mainly of accordion, tambourine and triangle.

There are other types, such as the carreirinha xote, where couples run in the same direction, very common in Rio Grande do Sul, and the seven-round xote, in which the couple has to walk around the room, in one direction, then towards contrary.

Marchinha June

The marchinha junina is not only at the carnival that marchinhas are danced!

On the feast of Saint John, this variety is illustrated by songs like “Nem se goodbye de mim” and “Olha pro Céu”, slower and marked by repetitive melodic combinations.

It is one of the favorite rhythms of the quadrilheiros, who find in it the ideal tempo for the choreography. In the marchinha, the accordion dictates the conduction.

Dances and Musical Rhythms of the Northeast


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