A Volta da Asa Branca – A Backland Social Dance Song

A Volta da Asa Branca (Return of the White-winged Dove, aka Picazuro Pigeon) is one of the best known songs to emerge from the Luiz Gonzaga-Humberto Teixeira partnership. Their version drew on a traditional tune, to which they added new lyrics and an arrangement. It was first recorded in 1947, followed by numerous other recordings, but perhaps the ‘classic’ version of the song is the one of 1952, in which it was first presented as a baião (a popular Northeastern song and dance). The lyrics center on the image of the asa branca, a Northeastern bird. It is said that the asa branca is the last living creature to leave the Northeast during a drought. If the asa branca flies away, one can be sure that it won’t rain that year. Asa Branca’ is a baião.

The baião is a popular dance of Northeastern Brazil that may have emerged in the 19th century. The baião is one of the dances used in the forró, the Northeastern term for a social dance. Some people claim that the word ‘forró’ is a corruption of the English ‘for all’. Allegedly the announcements for social dances which British companies organised for their employees in Recife during the 19th century stated that they were ‘for all’. Whether fact or fiction, in time social dances throughout Northeastern Brazil came to be known as forrós. ” (courtesy of David Byrne & Co.)

Apparently there exist many versions of this song, with some people even saying that a lesser version of the song was sung long before being recorded by Luiz Gonzaga. Of the two popularly recorded versions, I prefer the one Tom Zé sings in the video above which was originally recorded by Luiz Gonzaga and Zé Dantas, as opposed to the other in which Zé Dantas is replaced by Humberto Teixeira. This other version carries with it different lyrics on the same subject.

A Volta da Asa Branca (1950) – nesta toada-baião, Zedantas retrata a alegria do sertanejo ao ver a Asa branca voltar ao Sertão e, com ela, chegam as primeiras chuvas, a esperança do sertanejo. Luiz Gonzaga, em entrevista ao Globo Repórter – TV Globo (1985), afirma que “A Asa branca é o símbolo da dor e do sofrimento na seca. Quando a seca queima o Sertão, até a Asa branca vai embora”.

A Volta da Asa Branca (1950) – in this baião ditty, Zé Dantas repaints the happiness of the backwoodsman upon seeing the Asa branca return to the Backlands and, with it, the first rains, the hope of the backwoodsman. Luiz Gonzaga, in an interview with Globo Reporter – TV Globo (1985), affirmed that “The Asa branca is a symbol of the pain and of the suffering that occurs in the dryness. When the dryness scorches the backlands, the Asa branca goes away”


2 thoughts on “A Volta da Asa Branca – A Backland Social Dance Song

  1. Pingback: Forro in the Dark « Eyes On Brazil

  2. Pingback: A Happy 5th! | Eyes On Brazil

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