Gonzaga, Luiz (1912–1989)

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Gonzaga, Luiz (1912–1989)

Luiz Gonzaga (b. 13 Dec. 1912; d. 2 Aug. 1989), Brazilian singer, composer, and accordionist. Gonzaga transformed the rural folk music of the Northeast into a national urban popular music in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Born in the state of Pernambuco, he learned the traditional music of the Northeastern backlands and distinguished himself as an accordionist. After a stint in the military he moved south to Rio de Janeiro in the late 1930s and began performing contemporary popular music in clubs and on radio shows. Success came in the mid-1940s, when he teamed up with Humberto Teixeira, a poet from the state of Ceará, and incorporated Northeastern music into his repertoire. Together they adapted syncopated rhythmic figures used by Northeastern folk guitarists to create a new song-and-dance genre they called baião. In 1946 the pair co-authored the song entitled "Baião," which became a commercial success and ushered in a Northeastern phase in the history of Brazilian popular music. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gonzaga and his co-writers, Teixeira and Zé Dantas, released a string of hit recordings based on the baião and other Northeastern genres, such as chamego, xote, xaxado, and forró. The songs spoke of the culture, history, and physical beauty of the Northeast, and Gonzaga became a spokesman for Northeastern culture. He was crowned "King of the Baião."

When the national baião craze waned in the late 1950s, Gonzaga returned to the Northeast to spend his time performing throughout the interior. In the late 1960s, Gonzaga's music found a new generation of Brazilian listeners when the contemporary popular musicians Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil popularized new versions of his songs. During the 1970s and 1980s, Gonzaga performed with numerous Brazilian popular musicians, such as Gal Costa, Milton Nascimento, Fagner, Elba Ram-alho, and his own son, Gonzaguinha. At the time of his death Gonzaga had made more than 200 recordings.

See alsoBrazil, Geography; Music: Popular Music and Dance.


José Ramos Tinhorão, Pequena história da música popular: Da modinha ao tropicalismo, 5th ed. (1986).

Mundicarmo Maria Rocha Ferretti, Baião dos dois: Zedantas e Luiz Gonzaga (1988).

Chris Mc Gowan and Ricardo Pessanha, The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Dreyfus, Dominique. Vida do viajante: A saga do Luiz Gonzaga. São Paulo: Editora 34, 1996.

Santos, José Farias dos. Luiz Gonzaga, a música como expressão do Nordeste. São Paulo: IBRASA, 2004.

Silva, Uéliton Mendes da. Luiz Gonzaga: Discografia do rei do baião. Bahia, Brasil: Editorial Memorial das Letras, 1997.

                                          Larry N. Crook

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Gonzaga, Luiz (1912–1989)

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Gonzaga, Luiz (1912–1989)