Category Archives: Carnival

Great Carnivals of Joãosinho Trinta

Poster for a documentary about Joãosinho, where he is portraied by Vik Muniz
Poster for a documentary about Joãosinho, where he is portraied by Vik Muniz

Joãosinho Trinta, the former ballet dancer who reinvented Rio’s Carnival, incorporating luxurious elements and extreme creativity to the popular parade, died today. Controversial, he was frequently criticized by traditional sambistas, that felt that his huge, elaborate carnival floats and the use of some extreme resources, like individual flying machines, would hide the talent of dancers and musicians.

These three videos show Joãosinho Trinta at his best, leading escolas de samba Beija-Flor de Nilópolis and Viradouro to multiple Carnival awards. (And sorry – I was very unimpressed by the quality of the footages available on the web.) Continue reading Great Carnivals of Joãosinho Trinta

Brazilian batucada around the world

Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr
Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr

Batucada, the joyful, noisy, fast pace percussive ensemble, capable of speeding up one’s pulse, is gaining the world. You can watch performances of local batuqueiros from Birmingham to Singapore. Check here how very different cultures interpret this African Brazilian tradition.

in Kobe, Japan (Bloco Feijão Preto)

Continue reading Brazilian batucada around the world

Classic Carnival songs translated into English

This silly & funny video by Leandrade imagines how Classic Carnival marchinhas – those songs that have been played in indoor balls for ages – would sound in English. Be patient, it takes a few seconds to really start.
Check for its version of :

  • “Mamãe eu Quero” (Mommy I Want to Breastfeed)
  • Maria Sapatão” (a name used to refer pejoratively to lesbians)
  • Cabeleira do Zezé” (a composition from the seventies, when young men began to display large hair – and have their masculinity questioned)
  • Me dá um Dinheiro aí” (Give me Some Money)
  • Você Pensa que Cachaça é Água?” (in this version, the national spirit, cachaça, is translated into whiskey), among many other songs.

Recife and Olinda: Brazilian Carnival beyond Rio


Giant dolls in the streets of Olinda
Olinda's Carnival/2009. Photo by Raul DS/Flickr

By José Alberto Gonçalves Pereira*

Rio, Salvador, Recife or Olinda? Which town promotes the best carnival in Brazil? It is a very arguable question and I reckon I´m not the right person to answer it. You might distrust my response if I told you that I am traveling this week to the Northeast to enjoy my ninth carnival in Olinda and Recife. These neighboring towns on the coast of the state of Pernambuco are among the best places in Brazil for those interested in popular street culture. Olinda and Recife dispute the trophy of best carnival of Pernambuco – or maybe Brazil. Both cities have common cultural features, especially the lead carnival rhythm, frevo, a high-speed march played by brass bands, that includes umbrella-swinging and steps derived from capoeira.

No one in Brazil is crazy to deny that Rio stages the most beautiful samba carnival in the world. Also, I would be dishonest if I did not pay tribute to the exciting Salvador carnival, which brings together a multitude to its streets to sing and dance animated by trios elétricos (trucks equipped with a powerful sound system and a band on top of it) and blocos afros (Afro-Brazilian cultural groups). Both carnivals deserve your attendance at least once in your terrestrial life. Continue reading Recife and Olinda: Brazilian Carnival beyond Rio

Samba de roda, mother of Rio’s Carnival

Samba de roda in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia. Photo by imprensalauro/Flickr
Samba de roda in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia. Photo by imprensalauro/Flickr

These pre-Carnival days, turn your eyes and ears to Bahia and discover the music that inspired Rio’s Carnival. Samba de Roda, considered by Unesco an Intangible Cultural Heritage of  Humanity, was brought by slaves from Angola and Congo to the state  – more specifically to Recôncavo Baiano, region that includes Salvador. Eventually it was taken by migrants to Rio, where it influenced the rhythms present in today’s Carnival.

The participants of a samba de roda organize a big circle and one individual dances in the center till she gives an umbigada (a movement of the hips in which her belly button touches the belly of someone else). The person that was touched comes, at her turn, to the center of the circle. In other cases, umbigada is substituted by some other symbolic movement, such as a hand movement or throwing a handkerchief. According to Unesco, this tradition is bound to disappear. “The aging of practitioners and the dwindling number of artisans capable of making some of the instruments pose a further threat to the transmission of the tradition”, the organization informs, in the following video, which offers a good sample of samba de roda and of the various musical instruments and moves involved.

Continue reading Samba de roda, mother of Rio’s Carnival

13 things you didn’t know about Carnival

Carnival in the historic center of Salvador. Photo by the Government of Bahia/Flickr


  1. If you decide to watch the Carnival parade in Rio and rent a box (that may be covered or not and fits between four and 24 people), you will pay something between R$ 18,500 (11,100 dollars) and R$ 83,000 (50,000 dollars), according to Liga Independente das Escolas de Samba do Rio (Liesa).
  2. Last year, 600 thousand condoms were distributed by the government to the crowd who was celebrating Carnaval in Olinda, state of Pernambuco. The city, that has around 380 thousand inhabitants, received 1,5 million visitors who left behind them 266 tons of trash in the historic quarters.
  3. There are several versions for the origin of the word Carnaval. Some authors say that, in Ancient Rome, during the festivities in honor of god Saturn, cars that looked like ships (“carrum navalis”) would cross the streets transporting naked men and women. Other sources believe that it comes from carne (flesh or meat) – it would refer to the period of the year when Catholics don’t eat meat.
  4. The Church, despite an initial opposition to Carnival, decided in the year 590 to give the festivities its blessings, under one condition – the day after, Ash Wednesday, should be dedicated to repent and sin expiation. Today, it is mainly dedicated to hangover. Continue reading 13 things you didn’t know about Carnival

Martinho da Vila, Carnival king

Forget Momo, the fat guy that, every year, is crowned Carnival King. The real sovereign of the giant feast that begins in a few weeks is Martinho da Vila. This composer of irresistible smile, now in his seventies, was responsible for some of the most memorable samba-enredos of Unidos de Vila Izabel, escola de samba that he personifies. Thanks to his creation “Kizomba – a Festa da Raça“, Vila Izabel won Rio’s Carnival in 1988. This samba enredo, as so many other compositions by Martinho, is about slavery, freedom and Zumbi, the rebel slave leader. The composer is a big activist for the right of Afro-Brazilians.

You can see this samba enredo here, interpreted by Dudu Nobre, with subtitles in Portuguese (I wish I could find a good footage of the carnival parade itself, but wasn’t that lucky):

Continue reading Martinho da Vila, Carnival king

Gorgeous Rio Carnival

A little aftertaste of Carnival: the Havaiana flipflops add currently on TV shows a lady criticizing a bunch of guys (including actor Marcos Palmeira) who are celebrating while the world is in crisis. Palmeira sighs and says tristeza (sadness), which reminds the group of a classical samba, by Haroldo Lobo and Nilton de Souza.

Don Quijote, the theme of União da Ilha
Porta-bandeira of São Clemente

The photos I chose were produced by Riotur, the tourism agency of the city of Rio.