It’s not often that a world music festival at a prestigious amphitheater turns into the kind of relaxed, infectious party you would find in the backyard of a Latin American home. Then again, this is Brazilian music we’re talking about. History has shown repeatedly that offering resistance to the almighty drum is simply futile.
From the moment local band Badaue opened the festival with its multilayered waves of percussion and the funky voice of charismatic leader Bira Martins, most of the crowd abandoned the seats and moved to a spacious area behind the stage for some inspired hip-shaking. The view was particularly cinematic for those who stayed behind: the stage antics of Badaue, framed by a sea of dancing people of all colors and ages.
Badaue was later enriched by singer Katia Moraes, a strong presence in the Los Angeles Latin scene. Dressed in a traditional outfit, Moraes complemented the band’s instrumental spark with her remarkable voice — crystal clear and unfailingly powerful at the same time.
The second half of the show belonged to a Brazilian group by the name of Forrocacana. The sextet specializes in the highly danceable genre known as forro, which originated in the northeastern region of Brazil. Anchored on the hot strains of an ever-present accordion, forro sounds like a distant cousin of other earthy Latin genres such as Colombia’s vallenato and Mexico’s norteno.
Forrocacana embellishes its tunes with touches of violin and the ever-present syncopation of all Afro-Latin rhythms. Besides paying an expected tribute to Luis Gonzaga, the godfather of forro, the band rocked the crowd with an imaginative version of “Menina Mulher da Pele Preta,” a ’70s oldie by Jorge Benjor.
This ninth edition of the festival lacked a big marquee name such as last year’s Olodum. But the appearance of a relatively young act such as Forrocacana brought a refreshing air to the procedures, while the faithful samba-philes were busy dancing the night away.