Carnival falls on a different date every year, about 40 days before Easter. This year is February 18 – 21st, and the parties began weeks beforehand in some places. Brazilians close their offices and shops, and throw themselves into the world’s most famous manifestation of freedom and happiness, day and night, on and off the hot crowded beaches, at the peak of summer.
Carnival in Brazil is an all around unforgettable experience, celebrated all over the country. Here are some of the most famous Carnival in Brazil.
The beautiful land of Brazil plays host to the most celebrated event on the planet, the Rio Carnival, a weeklong celebration leading up to Lent in the Christian calendar. Known as the Greatest Show on Earth, thousands of visitors from all over the world flock to Rio to experience sensational parades with the mesmerizing beats of the samba drums, and most importantly, costumed samba dancers in attire ranging from the intricately designed to the outrageous. While carnival parties are held throughout the city, the main action takes place at the Sambadrome where twelve Samba schools strut their stuff at the Samba Parade. Each school consists of samba dancers and musicians that proudly show off their talent after a year’s hard work of creating a theme, a samba song, and plenty of handmade costumes.
Earlier, the streets of Rio played host to the Rio Carnival until the Sambadrome, designed by the famous Carioca architect Oscar Niemeyer, came into existence in 1984 due to the increase in the number of participants. The Sambadrome is a well designed stadium that can accommodate 90,000 spectators and over 30,000 participants displaying their talents down the runway. It consists of several independent structures, known as sectors, on both sides of Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue.
The Sambadrome reverberates to the sounds of the samba drums and chanting from thousands of spectators that flock to the stadium to join in the Samba Parade. Spread over 5 days leading up to Lent in the Christian Calendar, the Rio Carnival portrays Brazilian culture at its best. All eyes are on the twelve samba schools that put up an incredible show complete with dazzling and sensuous costumes, music that captivates the soul, and incredible props and floats. Samba Parades are held on four days where the top performances are by six samba schools on Sunday and the other six on Monday, each vying for the coveted champion’s title.
The Samba Parade at the Sambadrome is a well orchestrated event, with contributions from thousands of people that ensure the event is a resounding success every year. A panel of around 40 judges seated at strategic points along the parade route keeps a keen eye on each school’s performance, giving points for percussion, costumes, floats, samba song, flag bearer, theme of the year, and more. As the parade moves down the strip, the crowds go wild in the stands, singing and dancing in unison with the participants. The electrifying atmosphere is contagious where the entire stadium is transformed into one big giant party. The winner is announced on Ash Wednesday, the day after the Carnival.
Carnival in Salvador, é so alegria (it’s only happiness) – put simply, is a parade — or two parades actually — of trio elétricos. A trio elétrico is a done-up semitrailer, loaded with thousands of watts of sound equipment and with a band playing on top. They parade very slowly along one of two Carnival circuits, one closer to the city center, running from Campo Grande (literally Big Field, Salvador’s central park) to Praça Castro Alves (named for Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves, the Bahian poet who, among other things, wielded his mighty pen against the injustices of slavery and political oppression), and the other running from Barra to Ondina, along the Atlantic Ocean. The first trio to exist was an old car (’29 Ford) with a driver (Muriçoca, a nickname meaning “mosquito”), and two musicians (Dodô and Osmar) in the back (the car can be seen in the museum at the Lagoa da Abaeté in Itapoan; it debuted in 1951). The following year Dodô and Osmar, who played electrified string instruments of their own devising and called themselves a dupla elétrica, added friends, Reginaldo Silva and Themístocles Aragão (who took turns playing, only one at a time) on the triolim (tenor guitar), thus becoming a trio elétrico (having abandoned the jalopy for a Chrysler Fargo pickup truck).
This is what the fobica actually looked like the first time it went out…Osmar’s father-in-law Armando is there on the running-board, dressed up like a Hawaiian woman.
That first time the fobica (jalopy) hit the avenidas (avenues) there came a point where Osmar yelled to the driver Muriçoca (Mosquito) to stop for a bit…but the car kept moving…Osmar yelling several more times…Muriçoca finally realizing what Osmar was saying and turning around to explain that the clutch and brakes had long gone out and he’d switched off the motor…the crowd was pushing them forward!
Trio elétricos have grown like it’s the Triassic Period, but one, and only one, was conceived counter to the prevailing evolutionary trend, and that was, and is, the Micro Trio. The Micro Trio is like a magic trick, or like one of those little circus cars that opens up and twenty clowns pile out. It’s one of those scarily unroadworthy-appearing little vans with undersized wheels, and fourteen speakers on top…it looks top heavy, like it’ll fall over on its side if the wind blows too hard. And there are musicians inside — GREAT musicians — with chops, and instruments and a drum kit, and they play the great traditional Carnival music of the twentieth century, marchinhas and frevos, expertly and passionately. This is one of the best things about Carnival in Salvador.
The “inventor” of the Micro Trio is drummer/percussionist Ivan Huol who is also one of the organizers behind Jam no MAM (the MAM is the Museu de Arte Moderna), the Saturday evening jazz jam sessions held bayside (from 6 p.m.) and attracting well over a thousand people per event.
When you think of Brazil you probably think of the famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro, however, there’s another carnival just as popular, and with arguably more variation, and that’s Recife Carnival. Not only does it have samba dancing just like its more famous carnavale sibling, it also features such diverse themes as rock, reggae and manguebeat, to name but a few.
What makes the carnival in Recife Brazil so successful is that the local government supports it, so everything is sanctioned, allowing the very best performers to appear. There’s traditional dancing at carnival Recife Santa Catarina Brazil, as well as colorful carneval parades and enchanting music to catch even the weariest traveler up in its spectacle.
the Carnival festivities begin in December, when locals begin preparing for the official Carnival, which starts the week before Ash Wednesday. The pre-Carnival parties usually consist of percussion groups practicing in local clubs, city streets and squares, and even Carnival balls. There are a variety of rhythms, from native Indian and African Maracatu beats to Frevo and samba. The Recife Carnival’s most famous tradition takes place early Saturday morning, when the Galo da Madrugada host a party in downtown Recife, attracting as many as 1.5 million costumed partiers to toast the crack of dawn.
Over 2 million people jam into the downtown streets to be part of what is perhaps Brazil’s most massive gathering of bodies for Carnival. Livening up the scene are 30 plus trio electricos and numerous foliões (parading bands), as the four kilometers of streets around the central area are filled with the high energy sounds of frevo.
Galo de Madrugada, Recife Carnival is the largest festival in the state of Pernambucano, of which Recife is the capital. One of the most visual aspects of the whole event is when the samba dancers and other participants all dance with bright umbrellas – certainly one of the more unique sights in any carnival around today.
What really helps the Recife Brazil Carnival stand out from many other similar carnivals is the way that the locals encourage tourists to take part in even the more personal and traditional samba dances and events. It’s this kind of interaction and openly friendly approach that has seen Recife Carnival attract millions of tourists every year, and not just from outside of Brazil.
While Carnival in these sister cities, separated by less than five miles, may have a lot in common – such as a passion for frevo and the fact that both festivals take place in historic districts – there’s a unique feel about Carnival in Olinda. For starters, Carnival in Olinda is best during the daytime, while Recife is also great at night.
Carnival in Olinda takes over the streets of the colonial district, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Some historic buildings are fenced by IPHAN (the Brazilian Institute for National Historic and Artistic Heritage) during the wild festivities.
Even if you’ve never been to Brazil, you may be familiar with the giant puppets of the Olinda Carnival.
Giant puppets represent from traditional Carnival characters to current celebs, Brazilian and international. Artists create them in paper maché and fabric. The person carrying a 15-foot tall puppet endures temperatures in the 100s.
Giant puppets open and close the festivities. The Midnight Man comes out as soon as Sábado de Zé Pereira (Carnival Saturday) starts. The absolutely packed parade led by the Midnight Man has opened every Carnival since 1932 and it’s mostly followed by locals.
There are a few stories to explain the origin of the Midnight Man. According to the president of the Midnight Man Club, one of the stories says the creator of the puppet was inspired by a man he used to see in the Olinda streets at night, jumping windows to be with local ladies. The man would usually dress in green, and so does the Midnight Man.
The Meeting of Giant Puppets, a very popular event featuring dozens of these colorful characters, takes place on Fat Tuesday.
Carnival in Olinda is not as structured as in Recife and it’s not cordoned like Carnival in Salvador either. What makes the Olinda Carnival happen is the presence of Carnival associations – there are at least 500 of them – and about 1 million people dancing in the narrow streets.
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