Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rio Carnival

Carnival of Rio, Brazil

Rio Carnival

Release the static energy

Festivals and affiliated rituals have been part and parcel of all cultures; more rich the culture rituals and performances become deep and often mind boggling. Occasions to revel are provided by the society as a vent for the static energy accumulated that may otherwise turn to its disaster. Brazil is a very big nation with an equally rich culture, even the Inca culture which has left its marks in various parts of South America is thousands of years old that could not be completely destroyed by the long colonial rule.

Very much in the blood

The Rio Carnival was initially banned by the Brazilian government like the Church tried to ban it in the early 18th century. Brazilians did not wait hands down for its re approval they rioted in the street until dear celebration was restored. All attempts to ban this ‘phenomenon’ have failed and will fail it has a role in the society and the people need it badly. The World War also had its impact and carnival had to be stopped; soon after the war in 1947 itself the carnival was reintroduced; it had to be; because it has got so much associated with the Brazilian blood.

Rio’s masterpiece

Rio Carnival

The city of Rio that has credit of being home to most of the world wonders like the statue of Christ the Redeemer, world’s largest natural Harbour of Rio, River Amazon, Pantanal, worlds largest fresh water wet land, Samba music etc but the carnival stands out as its masterpiece among its jewels and as the main event among all Brazil can offer. It is just a four day celebration that starts in a Saturday before Lent at the peak of summer (about 7 weeks before Easter) and ends in the next Tuesday known as the Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday.

History of Carnival

In its long history the carnival has undergone many changes to take the present shape and form. The elites of the Rio society imported the celebration from Portugal to Rio in 1845. Later these festivals came down from their ivory towers to the Rio’s streets for working class, former slaves and the masses. The way it is conducted, the venues, the music played, the style of the dances etc have changed in accordance to the new participants and the new onlookers. Entrudo, Ze Pereira, Grandos Sociedades, Cardo Carnavalasco, Ranchos, Corso etc are all the forms it had undergone in its non-stop evolution.

A four-day affair

Rio Carnival

The Carnival is a four day affair that starts before the Lent in a Saturday (49 days before Easter Sunday) and ends in the proceeding Fat Tuesday. After carnival the liturgical period of Lent comes which requires abstinence from bodily pleasures like eating meat, merry making skipping church mass etc are to be given a pause. In the peek of summer even ordinary people slip into a festive mood what to say about Rio’s own care free cariocas; it is they who give flesh and blood to the whole celebration of Carnival. Without these pleasure and leisure loving Cariocas Rio will look as ‘ordinary’ as any other monotonous cities in the world.

Greatest Cultural event of the world

There are many carnivals observed in Brazil as well as all over the world; of which the most noted one is undoubtedly that held in Rio de Janeiro; the Capital of Brazil; Rio Carnival is also acclaimed as the greatest cultural event in the world. Though commercialized to the extreme; it still retains much of the spontaneity of the care-free people who live around Rio. Bahia, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais are places where carnivals are celebrated. When people of a locality assemble form a club and set to the street to sing and dance it is only spontaneity that has nothing to do with commerce.

There are differences between these festivals from place to place for example in Bahia big floats carry teams playing ‘Trio Electrico’ and large number of people dressed as Red Indians follow singing Samba and Reggae and axe music. Most of the music expresses the emotions of the down trodden people and their resent to racism they experienced during the colonial era.

Where as the state of Pernambuca have more than one place for carnival Recife (capital) and the city of Olinda. Here the music played is mainly Frevo, Maracatu, Galo da Madrugada etc. Racife has the credit of celebrating the biggest carnival in the world in terms of the number of participants and its name is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Street Carnival

The real carnival lives on the Rio streets, it is a people’s affair no tickets for entry, no walls or gates and each street and suburbs have their own orchestra and dancers and singers. In fact everybody sings and drums and dance to the Samba rhythm.

There are Blocos, the Bandas who take the lead; some of the troupes march through the streets while some of them get stationed in a square or junction and go on singing and dancing; every one is welcome to this show of the masses!

Copacabana, Jardim Botanico, Leblon, Lagoa, Ipanema as well as the center of Rio are venues for the blocos. The most popular bloco that marches in Suvaco do Cristo (Christ armpit in Portuguese, under statue Christ the Redeemer) is O Cordao do Bola Preta.

Blocos and Bandas!

There is no special dress or logo or T shirt mandatory but the blocos and bandas wear the T shirts with special themes, visitors can have it for as little as 12 bucks on the spot and merge in the gang. These T shirts can work as an excellent trophy back home; in fact it is this free for all situations that generate a thrill among the players and the people on the sidelines who spontaneously become a part of it. After the festival a tourist does not return not just as a mere spectator but as a part of it.


Rio Carnival

Men dressed in female clothes and playing roles is common to most of the cultural festivities; in carnival also that is a common practice. In early times even the ‘Baianas (a lady chosen to play the central stage in cultural festivals; it has been present in the carnival also for a long time) were transvestite men! These men were generally experts in Copoeira a traditional performance which involve techniques of martial arts as well as dance. It can be said as a Brazil’s own form of martial art)


Samba is not a Street Carnival it has a venue of its own the Sambadrome one of the biggest in the world built in March 2 1984, before its construction the function was held in various locations. The great art of Samba is an integral part of a Brazilian; there are so many Samba Schools for its performance. They rehearse throughout the year for the performance; all members of Samba School participate in it.

Whether as song writer, singer or dancer; each of the members of the school gets an opportunity to express his creative skills even if he is not accomplished any of these. Samba Schools are not educational institutions but just clubs formed of people of the neighborhood.

Samba Parade

Of all the items of the Rio Carnival; Samba Parade the most sought after program; it is not just music but a combination drums, dance and music and revelry; an expression of hidden passions and a cry of the oppressed. Huge floats move with the Samba Queen seated in the middle; in her most expensive and the sexiest costumes. It is she the cynosure of the shows; rather the darling of the voyeurs! Every man has a hidden voyeur in him; if not convinced; come to Rio during carnival or blame it on Rio!

The Samba troops playing music, while crowds dressed in customary Indian costumes with rags and feather head gears follow it singing dancing to the Samba tunes. There are also costumes adapted from the African tribes singing the rhythms of their great grand parents would have sung and dancing to the tribal tunes. While those on the sidelines and galleries also cheer sing and dance; because it is the Samba Parade a part of the Rio Carnival where spectators are partners! All said and done the carnival is an unforgettable audio and visual feast for the visitors to cherish.

Miser! Go Concentration to save

Rio Carnival

For those who cannot afford the heavy tickets there is one way; the Concentration; which is an open area where the schools line up for the parade, see them free and take as many photos as you wish. Wait until night go to the Terreirao do Samba where there is Rio Folia with free music and dance celebrate with the cariocas; here you are the real player not as a paid spectator as in the Sambadrome. Buy as many theme T shirts with the money you saved skipping Sambadrome and bring them back home as prized trophies!

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