A pair of repentistas (strolling minstrels-for-hire) were singing along with a well-stoked patron. Sun-scorched urchins peddled snacks: peanuts boiled in salt water and scooped by the coffee can from bulging burlap sacks, and chewy cheese grilled on wood skewers. We waved them all aside, but one solemn-faced kid outwitted us. Like a hunter baiting bear, he dropped a handful of free peanuts on the table. We cracked them without thinking and, in the usual way of salty snacks, soon craved more and called him back. Lay's Potato Chips, take note.
This was the high life in Aracaju, the capital of Sergipe, Brazil's smallest state, a place that usually appears on maps as a blank space midway between the much larger and livelier capital cities of Salvador da Bahia in Bahia and Recife in Pernambuco. I hankered to go to those places, and had been brought to the bar to meet a possible travel companion, Ashton Vital Brasil, who ran an ad agency in Aracaju and had to head up and down the coast on business.
I was underdressed for the reception, and more curious about what might be going on at the bottom of the cliff. I ducked away to find out, and to find some forro, the rowdy, rollicking accordion music of Northeast Brazil that begat slicked-up lambada. Others come to Brazil enchanted with samba, bossa nova or Afro-Brazilian drumming; I love forro, a style so raw and unreconstructed that educated Brazilians grimaced when I mentioned it. I figured I'd better hunt for it alone.
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