Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Carnival Week in Brazil!

In Rio, the parades take place in the gigantic Sambodromo
The official start of carnival might be scheduled for this Saturday in Brazil, but one wouldn’t be able to tell that easily. The so called pre-carnival parties are already been held throughout the country, samba schools have been staging massive rehearsals all summer long and nothing can stop the talks about the party.

The year-long preparations for carnival culminate in a wild four day celebration that will have the streets totally covered in sequins by Ash Wednesday. Samba is inevitably the soundtrack, but axé, funk carioca and pagode can also play a big part. What about the dress-code? The shiniest costume you can get or, in some cases, the tiniest. There are carnival celebrations in every corner of the country, so for now we’ll talk about the best-known ones:

As the set of the largest carnival celebrations in the world, Rio de Janeiro is preparing itself for a big change in the routine. As from tomorrow several streets will be closed for traffic and open to blocos, organized groups of revelers, and bands. The police force, nonetheless, might be smaller than in other years due to officers recruited for the occupation of the city’s favelas. They’ve been there since November, when the government ordered an unprecedented raid. Still, nothing will stop the masses of people that flock to the city every year to drink, dance, flirt and enjoy the spectacle. In 2011, 760,000 tourists are expected. Thinking of the tourists, the city has created a mascot called “John Carioca” (carioca refers to the native inhabitants of the city of Rio de Janeiro). But the government has more important worries as well: campaigns were launched to end discrimination against homosexuals and authorities will be handing out 20 million free condoms.

Beija-Flor, one of the biggest samba schools, applies the final touches to its floats
For visitors, the place to go is the 70,000-seat Sambodromo, where the main competition between samba schools takes place. Each of them picks a theme, compose a score with lyrics and, of course, practice year around to succeed. In 2011, the 12 samba schools will deploy up to 5,000 dancers each lead by the barely dressed “drum queens”. Beyond the parades, there are the carnival balls (usually with live music) held everywhere from clubs to hotels and schools.

This video introduces each samba school in the order they will appear in this year's parade:

Ok, now forget everything you read about Rio’s carnival. We’re going to Recife, in the Northeast part of Brazil. People in Recife like to say their carnival is the most democratic, since all action happens in the streets and people don’t need to pay anything to party. There, carnival incorporates a myriad of regional rhythms such as frevo, maracatu, troça and caboclinho, as well as afoxés, sambas, ciranda, coco, samba, rock, reggae and manguebeat. The frevo dancers, called passistas, have become symbols of the city and its carnival. Wearing multi-coloured costumes and carrying umbrellas, they jump according to the music.

Watch the latest videos on Recife's carnival here. And check out an example of frevo dancing in the streets:

In another northeastern metropolis, Salvador, carnival kicked off this Thursday. At 8pm the King Momo Edgar Passos was given the city key from the hands of the mayor. Ivete Sangalo and Claudia Leitte, the two most succesful singers of axé music, will attract a big crowd in the “trios eletricos”  huge trucks that ride the streets with blasting soundsystems and that have become  icons of Salvador’s carnival. In 2011, 2 million people are expected to join in and party. Both singers will transmit their shows live in their websites: and
The carnival veteran Daniela Mercury promises a show where she'll wear a white dress that will be painted by artists while she sings.

Ivete Sangalo opened her first trio eletrico this thursday at Praia do Forte, a beach located 30 miles from Salvador, with this summer's hit "Acelera Aê":

Even Google couldn’t resist the party and started broadcasting it through a new YouTube channel. So, even if you're far away, there's no excuse not to join the party! You haven't seen anything yet...
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