Music Migrancy and Modernity: A Study of Brazilian Forró – Thesis by Dr. Andrea Fernandes

summary by Sonja Graf

(from ForróLetters #7)

This is an incredibly insightful doctoral dissertation about Forró history and culture and was a foundational piece of literature in my own master’s thesis about translocal Forró in Brussels back in 2019. Therefore I wanted to whet the appetite of prospective readers by providing a small summary of Dr. Fernandes’ research here in our newsletter!

Dr. Andrea Fernandes is a Brazilian ethnomusicologist who did her doctoral work at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA) with Dr. Tomas Turino, the esteemed author of the book Music as Social Life The Politics of Participation (2008), among other.

Fernandes’ research objective in her doctoral work was to write a history of

“Northeastern Brazilian dance music styles known collectively as Forró, from the year 1946 through the year 2001, as practiced by Northeastern migrants who settled mainly in São Paulo city”.

Her dissertation consists of a theoretical framework covering the history of Forró in the northeast, the socio-economic context of Northeastern migration to the south of Brazil and the technical aspects of Forró as a genre of music and dance styles.

Fernandes did her fieldwork in various locations both in the northeast and in the south of Brazil and explains the differences in style and attitudes that existed in these two different dance spaces back in the early 2000s when she was doing her research.

One section of her dissertation entitled “About Music and Dance – What are they all about,” she later published in 2006 in Portuguese, fleshed out as a standalone paper entitled “O paradoxo de ana: música e dança – uma proposta de compreensão desta relação.” In this paper she depicts the ethnographic account of a female university student, Ana, describing her experience of heightened senses during a dance with a male dancer. Fernandes proceeds to provide readers with a very detailed analysis of Ana’s sensual experience through the lens of the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s (2000) work on consciousness and the body. I recommend exploring this paper for anyone wanting to drive deeper into their own experience of dancing within a philosophical and neuroscientific framework.

Overall, I found Fernandes’ dissertation to be a great resource to me in understanding the history of Forró and the socio-economic contexts which lead us to have Forró in Europe today, in helping me understand my own sensual experience as a Forró dancer, and as a guide to other research on Forró, as Fernandes provides an extensive bibliography for further reading.

Go to to the resources page and you can read Music Migrancy and Modernity: A Study of Brazilian Forró

Happy reading!

Any thoughts on this?