When I told my friends that I would be spending early 2016 in Brazil, the unanimous recommendation was that Isee the Carnaval. Having decided to extend my stay for a few months, I was genuinely excited to experience it first hand. Now whenI thought about the Carnaval in Brazil, it’s the formatted image from television that came to mind. At night, an infinite procession parading down the streets of the city, cheered by the massed crowd. Extravagantly dressed dancers perform sophisticated choreographies under the blasting spotlights. Colorful chariots and ostentatious dancers.
Well... I saw none of that!
Spanning over several weeks the celebrations are centred around blocos – or bloquinhos regarding of their size. Each of them organize its own parade and it can range from a few people playing music, eventually a singer and someone pushing a speaker on a grocery cart through the streets of a set neighbourhood, to a popular lead singer, a few DJs and a gigantic audio set on a 60 ft truck, followed by a full marching band down the main avenue of the city!
There’s no sophisticated choreographies nor shiny outfits here (but you can be sure to walk out of it covered in glitters). It’s a spontaneous gathering of people from all walks of life: the youth and their friends, the lovers, the single looking to mingle, parents with their child, the young at heart... Coming from all kind of neighbourhood to celebrate their joy of being, singing and dancing together. In some way it’s refreshingly unambitious and aside a few marketing initiatives it still belongs to the people. Yet there’s something wildly addictive with the idea of singing traditional Brazilian songs under a blasting sun, cold beer in hand for an entire day, only to start again tomorrow.
This frenetic joy I felt it when a tropical storm broke over us, hundreds of people energized by the pouring rain at the sound of samba. I felt it walking down my street, watching elders and children dancing hand in hand.