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The baião originated from the native people in the Northeast of Brazil. Nowadays it also contains elements of indigenous, mestizo, African, and European music. The most important indigenous elements are flutes and wooden shakers. African-influenced baiões are accompanied with atabaque drums and include call and response singing. European influences come from dance music like polka, mazurka, and schottische, but also from Portuguese music. The accompaniment with one or two pandeiros playing the baião rhythm also has European roots.

The rhythmical formula of the baião became the basis of a wide range of music like forró, côco, and embolada. The main baião instrument is the zabumba, a flat, double-headed bass drum played with a mallet in one hand and stick in the other, each striking the opposite head of the drum. The basic baião rhythm is (shown here in two bars): |ox.Ox.ox|ox.Ox.ox| where o is a soft mallet strike, O is a loud mallet strike, and x is a stick strike. Baião melodies are usually in the mixolydian or lydian b7 mode. It's written in 4/4 but you can also find it written in 2/4 or 2/2.

The baião is mostly associated with the state of Pernambuco, just north of Bahia. Despite the relatively small area of Pernambuco the baião influenced a lot of Brazilian music and Brazilian singers like Gilberto Gil from Bahia or Luiz Gonzaga. More southward in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo you can also notice its influence. Baião is very much a rural music and was eschewed for a long time by the urban upper classes.

Some baiões you should listen to
Title Musician Composer Album Year
Baião malandro Egberto Gismonti Egberto Gismonti Carmo 1977
Baião malandro Hamilton de Holanda Egberto Gismonti Hamilton de Holanda 2001
Asa branca Gilberto Gil Luiz Gonzaga - Humberto Teixeira Gilberto Gil, as canções de Eu, Tu, Eles 2000
Asa branca Dominguinhos - Sivuca - Oswaldinho Luiz Gonzaga - Humberto Teixeira Cada um belisca um pouco 2004
Louvação Gilberto Gil Gilberto Gil - Torquato Neto Gold 2002

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