By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On the evening of Monday, March 4th, samba school G.R.E.S. Portela will compete in the Grupo Especial with their parade scheduled to begin at 11:25 PM. The group will present their ‘samba enredo’ (thematic samba composition) entitled, ‘Na Madureira moderníssima, hei sempre de ouvir cantar uma sabiá’ (In the most modern Madureira, I will always hear a sage singing) a tribute to Brazilian singer and Portela icon Clara Nunes.
The school from Madureira, a neighborhood in Rio’s ‘Zona Norte’ (North Zone) will be using their parade this year to honor one of the icons of Brazilian music and famous Portela supporter, singer Clara Nunes. Nunes was a famous fan of the school, whose other supporters include musicians Gilberto Gil, Marisa Monte, Paulinho da Viola, and many more.
In a recent interview with O Globo, Rosa Magalhães, Portela’s Carnavalesca (Carnival Designer), comments, “We will show how Clara first arrived in Madureira, her participation in the carnivals of Portela and a little about her life, which combined religion with singing, and the rare thing of being a woman who sang samba in the parades.”
Nunes regularly paraded with the school until 1983, when she fell ill due to surgery complications. She recorded many songs in tribute to Portela, including ‘Ilu Ayê – Terra da vida’ (Ilu Ayê – Land of Life), and ‘Macunaíma, Herói de nossa gente’ (Macunaíma, Hero of our people). Nunes is also particularly well-known for recording the Portela anthem, ‘Portela na avenida’ (Portela on the avenue) which was one of her last hit songs, included on her penultimate album, 1981’s ‘Clara.’
Dona Teresinha of Portela, who both knew Clara Nunes and lived with her in Madureira, also comments in the same interview, “She was a wonderful person, full of life, full of joy, a very beautiful creature. She would come every week to the rehearsal space, stay with us, and she would take off her shoes and samba with her feet on the floor.” She says.
Portela are one of the most famous of Rio’s samba schools and the greatest winners of the top-tier group at Rio’s Carnival parade, with twenty-two titles to their name. In 2017, they claimed their most recent title, the school’s first in thirty-three years, with an allegorical story detailing some of the popular folklore surrounding Brazil’s rivers, while also expounding the importance of water and its relationship to human life. It was organized by renowned Carnavalesco Paulo Barros.
In 2018, the school presented a samba enredo tracing the little-known journey of Jewish migrants who escaped religious persecution in Spain to travel to Recife, in Brazil, only to end up migrating to New York, in the United States, after the Dutch invasion in Recife. This parade, organized by Carnavalesca Rosa Magalhães, who will be returning this year, ranked fourth, a position that the school will be looking to beat in 2019.