By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – This week provides a golden opportunity for the people of Rio to take one of those semi-rare long weekends with two feriados (bank holidays) falling on week work days. First up on Wednesday is Tiradentes, a day to celebrate a hero of the resistance against the Portuguese who was ultimately executed in 1789, while in contrast Friday is a Rio-only holiday, commemorating Saint George, the patron saint of Portugal.
What that means for a lucky few is that Thursday becomes a ‘lost’ day and can be taken as holiday to convert the coming weekend into a five day bonanza. For the rest of the city, Thursday will finish early anyway and begin a festival of partying and special events.
Leading the way are the team behind the second edition of the Viradao Carioca, which offers seventy-two hours of non-stop culture from Friday to Sunday. This year they have managed to put on a total of 524 attractions, including shows by major stars like Milton Nascimento, rapper Marcelo D2 and singer Preta Gil, and the best part of the whole project? Its all free.
The concept is to bring shows and culture to oft-neglected parts of the city. While the likes of Copacabana beach and Barra are spoilt for major music attractions, areas like Maré, Bangu, Morro da Providencia and Penha are sometimes neglected, and Viradao has set out to redress that balance. Praça Quinze and Cinelandia in Downtown will be the main focus of entertainment as the central point of Zona Sul, Zona Oeste and Zona Norte, while Lapa also has a stage of attractions on offer all weekend.
Such bank holidays will always turn Lapa into a seething mass of bodies by way of celebration, so despite the Viradao starting on Friday, you can expect Thursday night to be a hotbed of revellers too, spilling into the streets for cheap beer and caipirinhas as well as filling up the numerous samba clubs and bars.
Right next to the Arcos da Lapa sits Circo Voador, one of Rio’s finest live venues and an opportunity to see a true legend of Brazilian music, Jorge Benjor, as he plays two shows this weekend, on Friday and Saturday. The Tropicalia king who has gone on to fuse rock and samba to fine effect in more recent years is also the man behind international smash hit ‘Mas Que Nada’ by Sérgio Mendes, as well as being responsible for some of Brazil’s finest musical moments ever committed to record.
Along from Lapa in the Marina Da Gloria, the Eu Amo Baile Funk crew welcome back the man responsible for the street sound of Rio de Janeiro, Afrika Bambaata. It promises to be a huge feast of funk, and will feature old legends of the scene like Mr Catra and MC Sapao alongside the American innovator.
Across town in Barra there are two shows that will excite different sets of ears at Citibank Hall, as Simply Red and Moby take to the stage on April 23rd and 24th respectively. The former is a Mancunian crooner who has been making girls swoon the world over for three decades with his songwriting and unique voice, while the American Moby has gone from rave legend to global commercial success in the space of ten years.
So whatever your musical preference this weekend there is something taking place to aurally excite. Besides these major events many of the city’s smaller clubs will be hosting special events, so be sure to seek one out and pursue a time honored Carioca feriado tradition. Stay out late and party.