Visions of Carnaval


"Fantasias" for sale

Until recently, the carnaval of the street had almost all but disappeared. A few blocos, neighborhood bands, remained, especially in the outskirts of Rio. The elaborate competition of samba schools was it. Cariocas who could afford it traveled out of Rio.  A friend told me he spent his childhood carnivals in movie theatres alone. About ten years ago–the same year as monobloco first paraded– carnival began returning to the street. Since then, the number of blocos has exploded.

...we took over the city

Boitáta overflow

At 7 a.m. carnival Sunday Cordão Boitáta began to march in Centro. By the time I arrived, they were playing on a stage in Praça Quinze. Beer was selling briskly. And the pedestrians had taken over the historic once-capital of Brazil. Somehow police–except for a few who showed up threatening to arrest people for public urination–were absent from all of the blocos I attended.

Magical Carnaval sunglasses

Magic sunglasses make Carnaval even happier

Cordão do Boitáta played a joyous mix of marchinhas, forros, jongos, and a retro-sounding Bob Marley cover. Although marchinhas are still written, the most popular  date from the 1930s. People don’t attend, watch, or dance at blocos. They go to the bloco to pular, to “jump.”

President Dilma

President Dilma


Sargento da Pimenta

"Sargento da Pimenta"

The second year for “Sargento da Pimenta” dedicated to samba covers of the Beatles.

"Bagunça Meu Coreto" ("Mess with my Bandstand")

Another bloco starting at 8am in Laranjeiras.

"Bagunça Meu Coreto"


2nd Rio Soundsystem Festival

2nd Rio Soundsystem Festival

In a kind of trans-carnivalism, Brazilian soundsystems offered three evenings of Jamaican Carnival. At the first party, purist Bangarang and Jurassic Soundsystem DJs played rocksteady, early reggae, and ska 7″s with 1 turntable and a microphone.

After this soundsystem bloco, I walked home–Carnaval is all about jumping or stumbling through the city– t0 watch the raucous televised presentation of the “Pink Carpet” for the Gala Gay, the final and most fabulous ball of carnaval.


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