Sometimes a region's musical tradition is best served when its practitioners are a long way from home, feeling the pull of their roots but inevitably mixing them with the sounds of their current surroundings. Such is the case with Forro in the Dark, the band of Brazilian expats whose buzz status was ignited by their long-standing residency at New York's NuBlu, and culminated in their 2006 debut album, Bonfires of São Joao. With a somewhat re-jiggered lineup, they pick up the thread of that release with the follow-up, Light a Candle.
Best known for their collaboration with Steve Earle on his song City of Immigrants, Forro in the Dark are Brazilian expats who have taken the rural music of Brazil's north-east and reworked it for the club scene in New York, where they mostly perform. Forro may not be as well known to western audiences as samba, but it's one of the great dance styles of Brazil, as shown by the more traditional forro tracks that kick off the album. The light, insistent rhythms are driven on by the deep zabumba drum, and the instrumentation includes guitars and the pifano flute, with some furious solos from Jorge Continentino.
Forro in the Dark knows how to party, and its regular New York City shows—including its long-running Wednesday night residency at Nublu that stretches well into the wee hours— provide plenty of spice. You’d expect nothing less if it’s true forro—the popping, pulsing party music derived from African and Brazilian strains—but you’d also expect a lot more than what’s offered by Light a Candle, which doesn’t so much feel like a triumphant scream as it does a pleasant shrug with occasional cause for celebration. Were it that everything on here throbbed like “Caipirinha”, a percussion showcase as primal as visceral, or burned like “Silence Is Golden”, which features half-sung, half-breathed vocals by the Brazilian Girls’ Sabina Sciubba.