CARNIVAL AND ITS HISTORY
The month of February or March, depending on the year, to the Brazilians is synonymous with celebration, and it's in this period that the people reveal its essence, joy, creativity , musicality and all their irreverence.
During the 5 days of Carnival Brazil is transformed into a spectacle of lights, sounds, rhythm and colors, that make up the greatest popular manifestation of the planet.
Those who are not acquainted with the rhythm of this time of the year will only see the over-excitement and happiness of millions of people , day and night, without an apparent reason. In fact there is a logic and quite a precise plan for this period: the "Trios elétricos", huge cars with live concerts, in Salvador, Bahia, The Samba School Parades, in Rio de Janeiro and in Sao Paulo, "frevo" in Pernambuco, in the carnival of Olinda and Recife. It's all the joy stretching on the streets from district to district, and from one city to another. At clubs, bars, Hotels, in the houses and at the beach from North to South. Carnival is an unequivocal symbol of the great racial mixture and regional richness that form the Brazilian culture.
Carnival takes place in summer time, when the Cariocas are on vacation. Here the celebration is a seductive invitation that attracts millions of people around the world.
The most famous Carnival festivities are the ones from Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife. Officially , Carnival starts on Sunday and ends on Tuesday, almost always in February(the date follows the Roman Apostolic Catholic Calendar , counting 40 days before Passover ).
The origin of the Brazilian Carnival goes back to the beginning of colonization and the legacy of traditions of the Portuguese court and one related to it: the Italian masks. At first the Brazilian Carnival was a street party, with some sort of rude manifestations such as with rain of flour, eggs and water. As time went by they became more "civilized" and acquired grace and elegance, using instead lemon essence, ice cream and small spheres of perfumed wax, to be thrown at the crowd.
In 1834 the use of masks became more trendy. They were made with wax or cardboard, and resembled caricatures or snouts of animals. Soon came the costumes, which gave more life, charm and color to Carnival, be it in the private ball rooms or in the streets. The first Carnival ball that we have record of took place in 1830, and was the initiative of an Italian man in the Hotel Italia in Rio de Janeiro. There was such a big repercussion that other balls started to take place, bringing up the social differences: on one side, the street carnival, popular and outdoors; on the other the ball room carnival, attended by the emergent middle class. In the beginning of the XX century started the afternoon balls, outdoors and with contests for the most beautiful young lady, the prettiest costume and the best dancers. Carnival gets bigger every year, and becomes part of the reality of the Brazilian culture.
Despite the huge success of the ball rooms, it was in the popular sphere that Carnival acquired the real Brazilian way. At this time the floats emerged, promoting Carnival Associations, such as "Cordoes", the forerunners of the actual Samba Schools. As they had their own music, they showed their own banner, and followed a conductor. The first music to be composed exclusively for Carnival was "O Abre ala", composed by Chiquinha Gonzaga, an icon in the culture of Carnival, and responsible for all the joy for 3 years in a role. From this music derived many others, but it has been the starting point for samba we know now.
CARNIVAL IN RIO DE JANEIRO
Not only is it the oldest expression used but also the funniest and the one that costs less; it's the best way to take part of and also it's free of charge!
It's not necessary to wear costumes or know people. The only thing you need is the get into the rhythm, going with the flow along the streets of the city.
Each district has its own "banda", a group of people playing and singing the most popular carnival "marchas" or songs, whilst parading along a pre-established route. In every block more people join this cheerful group. It's mostly a family party.
These popular "blocos" work like this: people set a time and a meeting point , that can be a park , and after a couple of hours warming up they finally start their parade along the streets.
Rio offers a great variety of options for Carnival festivities. Whether in public or private places, there must be live music. In general two groups take turns , and there is often some popular singer invited for the occasion. The highlight is when the players, most of them playing in the samba schools, give their best by showing all their energy and synergy.
The parties all start around 11 p.m., ending in the morning of the next day. There are all types of parties throughout the whole city, such as gala balls, for single people, gays, etc.
The dressing code is generally casual, except for a gala ball. For those who want to get the Carnival spirit there are places where they can get carnival costumes of all types and sizes. The parties do not allow people under 18.
Samba School Parade at the Sambodramo
It's an important popular party that combines emotion, creativity, colors and music. People from all over the world arrive in Rio with the desire of taking part in this big celebration and feel the famous "carioca" energy.
Contrary to what the name says, the samba schools do not teach people how to do the samba. The schools are in fact district associations with their own headquarters and thousands of members, that every year parade in the Sambodramo, to try and get the disputed prize "Estandarte de Ouro".
There are 12 schools, each with about 4,000 components or samba dancers, subdivided into several sections or wings. Each wing is formed by a hundred samba dancers that are interspersed with immense floats, giving life to the parade. All of the components of the school use their own costumes and parade singing the history of the samba entanglement. The story is put in lyrics and theme.
After choosing the samba entanglement, there starts the creation of the costumes, under the command of a "carnavalesco", who will be responsible for the harmony of the schools during the parade, for the originality of the costumes and for the floats.
The famous "bateria" (band of instrument players), comprised of some 300 musicians, also bear their own costumes, accompany the parade without a rest, giving the rhythm to the schooling . Next to the "bateria", the, "puxador" of the samba and lead singer play and sing the samba theme continuously for 90 minutes, while parading with the samba school.
It is during these 90 minutes that the work of a whole year is accomplished, the old ladies (agile Bahian ladies) spin around themselves, ornated with big iridescent dresses and turbans. The countless "sambistas" dressed in the most extravagant feathers, chiffon and glitter float like hundreds of butterflies. The show is so magnificent that surpasses any possible imagination.
Rehearsals start from December on, when the music CDs of the samba schools are launched and you can even buy in stores. There is just a short break for Christmas and New Year holidays , and then all energy will be concentrated on organizing this wonderful party.
Boxes: These are the most sought after and are in the mezzanine of the sector 2, very close to the track of the parade and can be considered as a large balcony for VIPs. During the parade they offer buffet meals and drinks.
"Frisas": They are small boxes with numbered seats open for 6 to 8 people. They are very close to the parade, and the "sambistas" interact with viewers. At the "frisas" there is a small table.
Grandstands: It is the cheapest option. Located at the top, allows a stunning panoramic view of the runway and each school parading. The seats are not numbered, except in sectors 9 and 11, considered touristical sectors, with numbered seats at a different cost.
Participating in the Sambodrome Carnival
Those who want to be protagonists of the carnival in Rio can do so by participating in the parade, singing and dancing along with the samba school of their heart and become a fan with the same passion they devote to their favorite football team. You can book a carnival costume from a samba school that puts on sale, and book a shuttle to the Sambodramo. You can have a guide to accompany you to the entrance and tell you the fascinating details of the party. After having experienced the thrill of parading, you can remain in the Sambodramo and watch other schools, by purchasing the tickets.
In order to apply for the Carnival costumes it is necessary to provide information such as shoe size and dress size.
Parade of the Champions
Carnival lasts 4 days, starting on Saturday and ending on the next Tuesday. Six schools parade on Sunday and six on Monday, under the attent eyes of the jurors who will give their votes.
Each juror must choose the best school according to some criteria,such as quality of the group of percussionists who make up the "bateria", the theme song (samba entanglement), choreography, costumes, floats and harmony of the whole school during the parade.
The result is reported on Wednesday afternoon, when the holiday ends. The first five schools classified parade again on the following Saturday, celebrating the big success and closing the week of Carnival.
CARNIVAL IN SALVADOR
For lovers of street festivities, Salvador is the perfect place. Here we celebrate the carnival tirelessly for 7 consecutive days, as more than a million and a half people crowd in the 25 km of the official route, divided into three circuits. It is impossible to be still in the pace of axé, Bahia's musical expression. The most famous and popular groups parade on huge trucks called "trio elétrico", real moving stages with powerful sound systems, at the cost of nothing less than a million dollars on average. The crowd follows the electric trios along the streets of the city singing and dancing all along the way.
During the show, and always in motion, the repertoire of music is vast, from popular to classical themes of carnival music, which drag everyone.
Carnival is part of the DNA of the Brazilian people, and in this specific time of the year is transformed into an emblem of the nation. But the carnival in Salvador is not limited to electric trios. Rhythms and Afro-Bahian traditions go along without stopping. How Not to mention the parade of the "bloco" of the Sons of Gandhi, which form an endless pure white column, spreading perfume and dancing to 3 000 drums and can be heard miles away? Or the famous Olodum in colorful clothes and choreography prepared to detail throughout the year?
Taking part in the carnival as a native
All "blocos" have their own dressing style. Indeed the "ticket" to participate in the carnival is a stylish cotton clothes, called "abadá".
Only by wearing the "abadá" can one join the party. Each" bloco" has its own staff to ensure order and safety of its participants, who can have fun in a calm way. The same goes with the "trio elétrico". The access to this restricted area is just for people using for the proper "abadá".
It is important that participants really have a lot of energy to keep up with thisi 24-hour party. It is also the "abadá" that identifies the different "blocos", and each participant receives their special "abadá" according to the "bloco "and the information about the days of parade. The basic difference between the "blocos" is shown in their colors.
The "blocos" get grades from jurors in the most thrilling moment of the parade.
It is advisable to wear a hat and drink lots of water, as along the way there is no place to protect from the intense sun. The best days are Sundays and Tuesdays. The carnival ends with the famous encounter of the "trios elétricos!", positioned in a large plaza near the "Farol da Barra". From this moment on they play until Ash Wednesday.
CARNIVAL IN RECIFE & OLINDA
On the Saturday preceding carnival in Recife people wake up early. Just as the sun rises, a procession invades the streets towards the center of town to meet one of the most traditional and characteristic carnivals around the world, considered the carnival of the people. At 7 am you can hear the first chords of the original rhythm, "Frevo", starting then the parade of the "Cock of the early Morning", the main symbol of Carnival in the province of Pernambuco and published in the Guinness Book as the largest group of "Folioes" (the name given to the members of the troupe), as it brings together nearly a million participants.
The festivity of Recife is mostly famous for the diversity of musical styles that characterize it: the "frevo", "maracatu", the "caboclinho the ciranda," coco", "samba", "rock""reggae" beat and" mangue". Apart from the thousands of shows, 430 carnival groups and about 180 artists cheer the party.
In Olinda, on the other hand, carnival begins a week before the official date. People come and go through the colonial streets with great enthusiasm after the traditional giant puppets. Transgression, creativity and joy, the Carnival of Olinda yield a good position among the best known and popular. The Olinda festival preserves the most popular traditions native of Pernambuco. Groups of "frevo", "maracatus", "afoxé " and "caboclinhos" are live testimony of the mixture of customs and traditions between blacks, whites and Indians, and which form the basis of the Brazilian people and culture. The main feature of the Carnival of Olinda is in small groups or "blocos", with costumes made by each member, along with the huge 5 meter puppets, invariably representing famous people in a funny way.
It is a festival for all ages: seniors, young people, adults and children bring out their masks and joy as they parade through the old streets of Olinda and Recife.
CARNIVAL IN SÃO PAULO & MINAS GERAIS
The Carnival of Sao Paulo has grown considerably in the last years, and it is beautiful and attractive. Those who intend to be in town during this period, will encounter a surprisingly quiet city, with little traffic on the streets, but with an explosive vitality in the Sambodramo Anhembi, venue where the parade will take place.
The parade starts with the more simple schools, which are not official, and aim at raising the spirits of the spectators to their peak, when the official and more luxurious. schools make, then, their appearance.
Besides the parade, Sao Paulo's nightlife is busy, with numerous night clubs. The well-known gastronomic variety and quality of the city is an attractive addition for those to enjoy along with the carnival.
The historic cities of Diamantina, Ouro Preto, Tiradentes and Sao Joao del Rey offer a lively street carnival. These parties have taken place over the decades, and are an invitation to young Brazilians, as well as the inhabitants of the region, whatever their age. Instead of the spirit of Catholic worship that was in the past, participants in the carnival of these historic towns preserve old games that are old fashioned elsewhere, such as the battles of confetti and "serpentina".
CARNIVAL OFF SEASON
In Brazil, it is common to say that when the Bahian women are not taking part in a party, it is because they are gearing up for one!
It may be way too much, but the Bahian people are the ones, for example, who have invented the "micareta" , better known as the off season carnival, and that has spread rapidly throughout most of the country's capital and other cities to keep the level of Brazilian spirit high throughout the year.
Here again fun is guaranteed by the "trios elétricos", and the levels of excitement and motivation of the people are equal to or bigger than the one of the original carnival in February. In order to participate one must wear the "abatá" to be able join a "bloco".
Off season Carnival has its own timetable: for example, "carnabelô" is always in June in the city of Belo Horizonte, capital of the province of Minas Gerais; in July the "Fortal" in the city of Fortaleza; in August the "Micarecandanga" in Brasilia; in September the "Folia" in Sao Paulo; in October the "Recifolia" in Recife, and in November the "Carnatal" in the city of Natal.