Northeast Music Rhythms

Genres and Rhythms of Northeastern Music
Genres and Rhythms of Northeastern Music

In northeastern music, rhythms such as coconut, xaxado, galloping hammer, samba de roda, baião, xote, forró, Axé and frevo, among other rhythms.

The armorial movement of Recife, inspired by Ariano Suassuna, did an erudite work of valuing this popular Northeastern rhythmic heritage (one of its best-known exponents is the singer Antônio Nóbrega).

Several artists continued the legacy of Luis Gonzaga, as is the case of Dominguinhos, Sivuca, Jackson do Pandeiro and Waldonys.

In literature, one can cite popular cordel literature that dates back to the colonial period (the literature of twine came with the Portuguese and has its origins in the European Middle Ages) and numerous artistic manifestations of a popular nature that are manifested orally, such as the singers of repentes and embolada.

In classical music, Alberto Nepomuceno and Paurillo Barroso stood out as composers, as well as Liduíno Pitombeira from Ceará today, and Eleazar de Carvalho as conductor.

Rhythms and melodies of northeastern music also inspired composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos (whose Bachiana Brasileira nº 5, for example, in its second part – Dança do Martelo – alludes to the Sertão do Cariri).

In Northeastern popular music, rhythms such as coco, xaxado, hammer agaloped, samba de roda, baião, xote, forró, Axé and frevo, among other rhythms, stand out.

The armorial movement in Recife, inspired by Ariano Suassuna, did a scholarly job of valuing this northeastern folk rhythmic heritage (one of its best known exponents is the singer Antônio Nóbrega)

Genres and Rhythms of Northeastern Music

Various genres have emerged in the Northeast over the years.

Xote, xaxado and coconut are part of the so-called forró

Luiz Gonzaga, from Pernambuco, was the precursor of the baião, a rhythm that, along with others such as xote, xaxado and coco, are part of the so-called forró.

Several artists continued the legacy of Luis Gonzaga, as is the case of Dominguinhos, Sivuca, Jackson do Pandeiro and Waldonys.


Frevo, more common in the states of Pernambuco and Paraíba, is characterized by its fast pace and steps reminiscent of capoeira.

This genre has already revealed great musicians as Alcaeus Valença, Elba Ramalho and Geraldo Azevedo. These three, alongside Zé Ramalho, mixed frevo, forró, rock, blues and other rhythms. The quartet usually performs under the name of O Grande Encontro.

Tropicalism / Tropicalia

In the 60's, the tropicalism, inspired by the anthropophagic movement and that would become a landmark in Brazil.

The artists Tom Zé, Caetano Veloso e Gilberto Gil, among others.

Between 1965 and December 1968, an extensive and renovating artistic activity was developed with cultural and political dimensions of rare critical reach in Brazil. Vanguard projects, largely associated with political and social interests, emerged in all areas of artistic production.

Two priority directions were defined: an art known as protest associated directly or indirectly with the needs of awareness and mobilization of the public, given the imposed need to resist the calculations of the military regime, and an avant-garde art in which the imperative to renew forms, languages, processes and behaviors were considered a priority, both for the revitalization of the arts in view of the new conditions caused by modernization, and for the critical redimensioning of the imperative of cultural and political participation.

Among the artistic modalities that emerged at that time, the music of protest and denunciation, generally translating hope into a “day to come”, a persistent political utopia since at least the beginning of the decade.

Music became the most suitable channel for broadcasting political projects, precisely because popular song has always been the artistic modality with the greatest public penetration in Brazil, in all strata of the population, even before the decisive developments in the cultural industry since from the mid-60s, when the festival era highlighted the two modes of participation, protest and innovation, not without conflicts or intersections between them as to what was understood as legitimate Brazilian music or as to the more legitimate modes of expression politics.

Tropicalismo emerged from the conjunction of these various factors of an artistic, cultural and political order that were manifested in popular music, theater, cinema, plastic arts and literature.

The moment of maximum intensity and rupture occurred in 1967 and 1968, when an extraordinary creative explosion took place, which radicalized in critical terms the intense renovating activity of artistic activity that had been developing since the mid 1950s.

In these two years, the social, political and cultural concerns and initiatives aimed at realizing the imperative of modernization that, since the modernist movement of 1922, determined the effort to innovate in art, culture and reflection in Brazil, were taken to their expressive limit.

The year 1967 was particularly notable: at the same time, Tropicalismo, unleashed with the songs Happiness, happiness, by Caetano Veloso, and Sunday at the park, by Gilberto Gil, presented at the third Festival of Brazilian Popular Music on TV Record; the movie release earth in trance, by Glauber Rocha; the assembly of the king of the candle, play by Oswald de Andrade, by Teatro Oficina de São Paulo; the appearance of the environmental project Tropicália, by Hélio Oiticica, in the exhibition New Brazilian Objectivity, at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro; and the release of PanAmerica, book by José Agrippino de Paula. These productions were listed under the generic name “tropicalismo”.

Despite their differences, there was something in common between them: art of rupture, of innovation in artistic languages ​​and cultural strategies, which proposed changes in the political meaning of actions, re-proposing the meaning and forms of social participation in artistic-cultural activities.

Caetano Veloso performing at the Brazilian Music Festival, in 1967, at the Paramount Theater
Caetano Veloso performing at the Brazilian Music Festival, in 1967, at the Paramount Theater

Combining artistic experimentalism and cultural criticism, articulating avant-garde procedures and political participation, innovating the song by integrating non-musical effects and resources, contemporary and pop music, renewed compositional processes in lyrics, melody, arrangements and vocalization and in the elaboration of images with parodic and allegorical effects, the tropicalist activity shifted the modes of expression from the aesthetic and social nonconformism evident in the most significant part of art in Brazil in the 1960s.

This nonconformity, which had been structuring since the 1950s, was retranslated by Tropicalismo, especially in the individual albums by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and in the collective, Tropicália, Panis et circencis, released in 1968.

[…] Tropicalismo appeared as a transgression not only for its musical innovations, but also for activating behaviors and incorporating them into the song structure itself, composing a poetics of spectacularity.

The emergence of Tropicalismo in 1967 not only caused changes in the situation of popular music in Brazil, putting into question the limits of the effectiveness of the protest song, but also marked the most incisive absorption of the contributions of rock, which until then had been only superficially experienced by the Youth Guarda by Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos, as well as specific references to the tradition of popular music and other popular expressions.

The complexity of Tropicalismo is born from its intervention in the ways of making songs in Brazil, highlighting the turn of bossa nova and explaining the possibilities of its critical function.

The very materiality of the song is modified with the introduction of avant-garde procedures (musical, theatrical, cinematographic, poetic), rock harmonies and rhythms, electronic instruments, an elaborate staging, etc.

In addition, the explanation of the politician in the song is different: there is no longer the use of didactic means of denunciation and awareness, but the proposition of a syncretic set of disparate images that, referring to the "Brazilian reality", at the same time it shattered.

Evidently, the reception and acceptance of this song as 'Brazilian music' was not easy.

It demanded, from the public and critics, a change in listening and in the way of conceiving what popular song could be, beyond what was fixed by tradition.

Thus, if on the one hand Tropicalismo was enthusiastically received by individuals associated with the search for the new, who valued strangeness as an antidote to the repetition of clichés, on the other hand it was not accepted by those who considered this movement a distortion of authentic Brazilian music.

Another important aspect is that Tropicalismo appeared as a transgression not only for its musical innovations, but also for activating behaviors and incorporating them into the very structure of the song, composing a poetics of spectacularity.

The way the artists presented themselves, with extravagant clothes, disheveled hair and provocative and even obscene gestures, made up a language of rebellion, of bad taste (by the standards of the time), of tacky, of defiance.

In fact, they were assimilating the body in the song, not just in the theme as was common in the tradition. In fact, in this, the tropicalist song comes together with the assumption of the body that took place at that time in all artistic areas.

In the songs, the themes were consistent with the atmosphere generated in the shows: criticism of the consumer society mixed with criticism of morals, customs, petty-bourgeois values; criticism of the established political positions, of the right and the left; use of popular and erudite cultural residues, forming an apparently chaotic mixture, but actually constructed according to poetic processes of invention.

Axé music

Bahia would once again be the cradle of another musical genre in the 80's, with the creation of axé music, having as precursors Luiz Caldas, Chiclete com Banana, Daniela mercury, Timbalada and Olodum.

The genre revolutionized Bahian carnival, since frevo, a Pernambuco rhythm, was used in the Salvador party until then.

Currently, the Bahian music industry is the one that generates the most stars in Brazil and already has a "constellation" with national and international notoriety as mainly Ivete Sangalo which is considered the most popular singer in Brazil today and leader in sales in the national phonographic industry, has the ability to drag a legion of fans wherever she goes, including in international lands.

An example of this was Rock in Rio Lisboa in 2004, where the singer broke the attendance record.

Ivete owns Caco de Telha, an entertainment company that holds the title of largest company in the industry in the North-Northeast and among the five largest on the national scene.

Caco de Telha has already brought major events to Brazil such as the I am… tour by pop singer Beyoncé, The End tour by the Balck Eyed Peas musical group, The Grand Moscow Classical Ballet show and Cirque du Soleil performances in Brazil.

It has already provided the state of Bahia, in addition to these events with international artists, great shows with national artists such as the Roberto Carlos 50 Years of Music tour.

Through the shard of Telha, Ivete Sangalo was the star of a mega-production at Madison Square Garden, the temple of modern international music.

Bossa Nova

In Bahia, was born João Gilberto considered among all the other precursors of Bossa Nova: Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes and Luiz Bonfá Bossa Nova, the best known Brazilian rhythm in the world.

Bossa Nova was an artistic cultural movement created with the aim of modernizing Brazilian music. Tom Jobim is one of the main names.

João Gilberto is considered one of the precursors of the Bossa Nova the main creator of rhythm.

Brazil lived a moment of ascent after World War II.

The period was known as the “Golden Years”, where economic and cultural growth developed quickly.

Thus, within this optimistic scenario, a group of young people decided to innovate Brazilian culture by creating a movement called Bossa Nova.

In this sense, the movement aimed to incorporate aspects and characteristics of Brazilian music. Furthermore, it is believed that the movement officially emerged in 1958, when João Gilberto released the LP “Chega de saudade”.

Then, other artists such as Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes joined in several compositions. Among them, one of the most famous Brazilian songs, “Girl from Ipanema”.

In short, the movement was recognized worldwide when, in 1962, a group of artists performed in New York. Therefore, the event was a concert held at Carnegie Hall.

Thus, among the musicians who participated in the big day were Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Oscar Castro Neves. In addition, musicians Agostinho dos Santos, Luiz Bonfá, Carlos Lyra, among others, also participated.

History of Bossa Nova

The movement emerged in the midst of the economic growth that the country was going through. Juscelino Kubitschek (1902-1976) was the president and with him political actions such as “fifty years in five” were in effect.

With that, the president wanted to put into practice actions of the Plan of Goals and of the Development Policy.

Therefore, with the economy growing at a fast pace, young people from Rio's middle class saw in the period an opportunity to create something innovative. Thus, after several experiments and influences of American jazz, João Gilberto releases his first album.

With that, the Bossa Nova movement began, consolidating the musical style in the country.

The movement lasted for over a decade. Thus, it ended in 1966 with the emergence of the MPB style, Música Popular Brasileira.

In summary, it is noteworthy that the end of the movement did not end with creations inspired by Bossa Nova. That's because, to this day, musicians still use movement characteristics in some compositions.

Music Style Characteristics

As a way to modernize the Brazilian music scene, Bossa Nova built its own characteristics that aimed at the modern style of Brazil that was being formed. Among the main features that make up the Bossa Nova style we can mention:

  • conversational tone in voice;
  • everyday themes;
  • low voice, almost like whispers;
  • samba harmonies;
  • melodic jazz inventions.

Having said that, the songs were composed according to the natural manifestations of the streets, the movement of cars, the daily life of urban centers developing. Thus, songs were world-renowned as “Girl from Ipanema”. The song was composed in 1962 by Vinícius de Moraes and Antônio Carlos Jobim.

Tom Jobim was one of the creators of Bossa Nova.
Tom Jobim was one of the creators of Bossa Nova.

With the 64 military coup, the songs began to adhere to forms of protest against the dictatorship's acts.

As a result, it was common to see social issues in the artists' compositions. Furthermore, it was during this period that what became known as modern Brazilian popular music, MPB, began.

In summary, the end of the movement in 1966 did not mean the end of the musical style presented by the artists. This is because, to this day, it is still possible to see compositions that follow the musical style of Bossa Nova.

Main musicians

João Gilberto, Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes were the artists who most marked the Bossa Nova movement. However, in addition to them, several other musicians also helped to compose great songs.

Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes.
Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes.

Therefore, the main musicians are:

  • Dorival caymmi
  • Edu Lobo
  • Francis Hime
  • Marcus Valley
  • Paulo Valle
  • Carlos Lyra
  • Ronaldo Boscoli
  • Nara Leão
  • Baby Gilberto
  • Baden Powell
  • Nelson Motta
  • Wilson Simonal

The main songs of the movement

There were several compositions created from the Bossa Nova style. Thus, they marked the history of Brazil. In addition, some compositions were recognized worldwide. Thus, among the main songs of the movement we can mention:

1. Girl from Ipanema

It is, for sure, one of the most famous songs in the movement. Thus, it was a composition made by Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980) and Tom Jobim (1927-1994). In addition, the song was a tribute to the presenter Helô Pinheiro.

2. Samba do Avião

In summary, addressing urban aspects of the city of Rio de Janeiro, the song was composed in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim. Thus, the name came from the musician's observation that he saw the wonderful city from an airplane.

3. Out of tune

Composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça. However, it was João Gilberto who interpreted it. In short, it was a lyric that mentioned the characteristics of the Bossa Nova movement within the composition.

4. Nonsense

Composed by partners Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim, in 1961. Thus, the song had melancholy characteristics and a tone of regret. It was a song that took on worldwide proportions, being recorded in English with the title How Insensitive. Soon, she was performed by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Iggy Pop.

5. Wave

Another composition by friends Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim. In addition, it was a production that had the help of Claus Ogerman, responsible for the arrangement of the song. The song that means “wave” in Portuguese talks about love and beach landscapes.

6. By the Light of Your Eyes

Also composed by Vinicius de Moraes and music by Tom Jobim. However, it was in the voice of Miúcha and Tom Jobim that the song became known. Thus, each one interpreted a part of the song. One of the characteristics of this song is the fact that it doesn't have a chorus.

7. She is from Rio

It was a song written in honor of the woman from Rio. Thus, it was a production by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. In this sense, the musicians put aspects of the marvelous city in the lyrics, in addition to the personality of the women of Rio de Janeiro.

8. No more homesickness

In short, it was one of the songs that most marked the Bossa Nova movement. Thus, written in 1956 by Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim, the lyrics feature amorous suffering as the main theme. In addition, the name of the song was used to name João Gilberto's solo album.

9. March Waters

In short, it was a song created in 1972 by Tom Jobim. Soon, it was recognized in the voice of composer and singer Elis Regina, in 1974. In this sense, it is considered a great song. However, the music soon became popular and became recognized.

10. One Note Samba

Finally, created by Tom Jobim (music) and Newton Mendonça (lyrics) the song has a summer in English. Therefore, it is called One Note Samba. In that sense, it's also a song that has big lyrics. Furthermore, it has metalinguistic characteristics.

Did you know?

  • The music Girl from Ipanema entered the list of the 50 greatest musical works of humanity. The title came from the US Library of Congress in 2005;
  • National Bossa Nova Day is celebrated on January 25th, Tom Jobim's birthday;
  • Tom Jobim was considered by the magazine Rolling Stone as one of the biggest names in Brazilian music.

What did you think of the matter? If you liked it, run to check out what was the Tropicalism, another cultural movement that marked the Brazilian music scene.

Punk / Hardcore

In the 80s, Pernambuco was the first major reference of Punk/Hardcore music in the region and the main name is the band Câmbio Negro HC, being also the pioneer in the style and the first to produce the first records of the genre in the region, in addition to being a great reference of the country's undergroud music.

Mangrove beat - Mangue beat

Already in the 90s, the Mangue beat was born in Pernambuco, a rhythm that brought together rock, hip hop, maracatu and electronic music. Chico Science and Nação Zumbi are the main names of the genre.

Suddenly - Repente

The suddenness is quite widespread in the interior, with the highlight being Cego Aderaldo. The Banda Cabaçal dos Irmãos Aniceto, a band of fifes from Ceará, has international fame. In Ceará, Fagner, Belchior and Ednardo, icons of MPB, stand out.

Corny - Brega

It was also in the Northeast that the brega was born, whose main representatives are the Pernambuco native Reginaldo Rossi and the Bahian Waldick Soriano.

In Maranhão, northeastern music has a great diversity of rhythms, such as: Tambor de Crioula, Tambor de Mina, Tambor de Taboca, Tambor de Caroço, the four accents of bumba-meu-boi, in addition to being one of the main Brazilian strongholds of reggae.

Tribo de Jah, one of the main bands of the genre, emerged in the state. Other prominent people from Maranhão are: João do Vale; Claudio Fontana; Rita Ribeiro; Catulo da Paixão Cearense; Lairton from Keyboards; Zeca Baleiro (MPB), and Alcione (Samba).

Raul Seixas, born in Bahia, is considered the main rock name in Brazil. He was part of the Jovem Guarda movement as a composer.

Currently, Pitty, also from Bahia, is very successful in rock. In addition to the groups Cordel do Fogo Encantado and Pedro Luís ea Parede significantly marking contemporary Brazilian popular music.

The 7 Northeastern rhythms and musical styles that are successful in Brazil.

Genres, Rhythms, Singers and Northeast Music Composers

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