By Tim Anderson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With less then a month to go until Rio’s famous Samba schools take to the Sambódromo to shake and shimmy through the adoring fans, the rest of Brazil is preparing their own versions of Carnival to celebrate.
In such an enormous country, the annual party that began over 350 years ago is fittingly celebrated in a variety of ways. Incorporating aspects of Christian Lent as well as pagan and African traditions, styles of music and festivities are given a unique twist in every part of Brazil.
International focus is on the famous Rio Samba schools, which train all year round and are judged in competition for things such as their style, flow and music. Competitions are also held in other major cities such as São Paulo and Salvador, often incorporating a local flavor in style of dress or music.
Recife, in the northern state of Pernambuca, the Galo de Madrugada (Dawn’s Rooster) is perhaps the largest Carnival celebration in all of Brazil, boasting 1.5 million paraders. It incorporates the energetic and African influenced Frevo and Maracatu styles of dance and as the name implies, the celebrations are only held in the morning.
Afternoons are left to revelers to continue partying or retire to their homes (or frequently to someone else’s house!). While there is no competition here, groups play their instruments and dance in the streets along side each other following the Trios Elétricos.
Trios Elétricos are common across the country and usually have a platform with speakers and dancers, which move slowly through the streets and are followed by people dancing behind it.
In historical Minas Gerais big Carnivals are held in the cities of Ouro Preto, and Diamantina, which are popular with college students. Carnival here is characterized by brass and drum bands and ‘republicas’ (houses rented by the students for the celebrations).
Further south, while cities such as Curitiba and Florianópolis have street celebrations, it is more common to find official ‘balls’ held indoors for the Carnival festivities. The Samba in the southern areas is often complemented with various other music styles such as Reggae and Axe.
But no matter where you go nearly every town and neighborhood will have their own ‘blocos’ for the locals to participate in. Blocos were developed in the late nineteenth century for the locals to celebrate the Carnival in their own style.
They usually represent a community or an area, wear a uniform of some sort and of course play music. Often they try to give an amusing name to their group and names such as “um lugar para conhecer e até beijar pessoas” (a place to know and later kiss people) and “os solteiros” (the singles).
While some blocos may travel through the streets of a particular area or along a beach front, others may stay in the same spot, or be located at a bar or nightclub and invite people to join them.
Carnival is a time of celebration in Brazil, a time to let your hair down and join the party. It’s a time of exhibition and tradition, in all the diverse styles that make the country such a cultural adventure.