The origins of the baião lie in traditional rhythmic dances from northeastern Brazil, known as baiano and rojão, which, according to folklorist Câmara Cascudo, emerged due to the influence of religious plainsong on popular rodas by rural workers, where they played violas, zabumbas, pífanos and sanfonas de oito baixos.
The percussive foundation of this genre is made up of the zabumba, the triângulo and the caixa, which can be accompanied by the viola, the rabeca or the sanfona, or even by the pandeiro and the agogô, depending on the region where it is being played.
The baião was established as a musical genre after a song by the same name was released by Gonzaga/Teixeira in the 1950s. With its popularity, other popular musical styles from the northeast were pulled into the generic baião category due to their characteristic improvised plucking and the call and response between violas and singers. The baião musical genre also represents a fusion between rural and urban, and traditional and contemporary elements, a result of northeasterners in Rio de Janeiro who were forced to adapt their musical traditions to the urban dancing environment of the city.
Many MPB (música popular brasileira; Brazilian pop music) singers and composers applauded the genre, which gradually came to be the most famous Brazilian music abroad during the 1960s, at which point it began to be replaced by Bossa Nova.