By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Samba school Unidos de Vila Isabel will be the fourth school from the Grupo Especial to perform in Rio’s 2017 Carnival parade competition at the Sambódromo. The school, which turns seventy years old this year, is based in the Vila Isabel neighborhood, and has a pale blue and white flag.
Vila Isabel’s enredo (samba plot) this year draws its inspiration from Black influences on music in the Americas, in an entry titled ‘O Som da Cor’ (The Sound of Color).
The school will present the stories of the musical creations arising after British, Spanish and Portuguese colonization to Latin America, the Caribbean and North America.
The school’s enredo this year will explore how African slaves brought to the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean brought about the explosion of new musical genres, and the emotions that accompanied them.
Vila Isabel’s entry will feature Cuban rhythms such as rumba, mambo, salsa and merengue, as well as Caribbean genres such as ska, calypso and reggae. It will also call on influences from the southern U.S. with gospel, blues, jazz, rock’n’roll to soul, disco, rap and hip hop, and feature musical legends such as Elvis Presley, James Brown and Michael Jackson.
Brazil’s musical transformation will also play a large part in the school’s 2017 Carnival enredo, honouring the development of maracatu, congada, afoxé around the country. Rio’s specific musical heritage will also play a large part, represented through chorinho, jongo and closing with samba.
Alex de Sousa, the school’s Carnavalesco (Carnival designer), hopes to present a Broadway-like spectacle with a series of visual effects and bright colours, in addition to more natural materials such as straw and sisal present in the school’s costumes.
“We will also go through the Colombian rumbia, the Uruguayan milonga and candombe,” de Sousa told G1. “Even the tango, considered as typically Argentine and fado, genuinely Portuguese are rhythms that had to have black music in its formation.”
Most important for de Souza, however, is the audience’s engagement with the emotion of the musical genres represented. “Music in the New World comes on three pillars,” he continued. “The pillar of pain, of suffering, of longing, of martyrdom. The pillar of faith, in the expression of praise, in worship. And in joy: at parties, at leisure. It is the sound of the black race that echoes.”
Although the school has spent the majority of its life in the top tiers of the parade competition, it has only been crowned Grupo Especial champion three times: in 1988, 2006 and 2013.
However, Vila Isabel has remained in the Grupo Especial league since 2004, and its 2013 entry earned the school a score of 299.7 points out of a possible 300.
Be sure to stay with The Rio Times to learn more about the other competing schools, winners and additional events during this year’s Carnival.