(Re-)Imagining Rural Bahia – Music, Nature and Nostalgia
My PhD project focusses on the Brazilian music and dance genre Forró. Forró represents, like no other, the dry interior region of Northern Brazil, known as Sertão. It has been described as a music of migration and movement, and as such speaks for those northeasterners who, due to devastating droughts and poverty, have left their homes in the hope of finding a better life in the south. Forró therefore seems to be fueled by a bittersweet longing for home, evoking strong feelings of nostalgia. It is against this background, that I want to explore the ways in which the interrelationship of music, nature and nostalgia opens up imaginative spaces that engender certain ways of being. Rather than looking at music merely as an effective means of identity formation, I aim to explore the deeper connection of people’s experience of this music and concrete manifestations of certain lifestyles within this specific aesthetic regional setting. While Forró underwent a lot of creative innovations during the last decades, these main themes, as well as the sounds of classic instruments such as the Accordeon, Zabumba and Triangle, are still considered to stand for the authentic, traditional music of the Northeast. Although it has been declared intangible cultural heritage of Brazil in 2021, musicians and cultural actors continue to seek recognition within Brazil’s official image of its cultural identity – all the more in Bahia, whose identity narrative focuses mainly on it’s Afro-Brazilian heritage. By ethnographically exploring this multifaceted situation in its manifestation within Forró, I will contribute to debates about identity, authenticity and representation.