Brazilian Carnival

Brazilian Carnival

The Brazilian Carnival, or Carnaval ( _pt. Carnaval), is an annual festival in Brazil held 4 days before Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. During Lent, Roman Catholics are supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures, including the consumption of meat. The carnival, celebrated as a profane event and believed to have its origins in the pagan Saturnalia, can thus be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. Brazilian Carnival as a whole exhibits some differences with its counterparts in Europe and other parts of the world, and within Brazil it has distinct regional manifestations. Brazilian citizens used to riot until the Carnival was accepted by the government as an expression of culture. That was because the Brazilian carnival had its origin in a Portuguese festivity called "entrudo".

Rio de Janeiro

Modern Brazilian Carnival finds its roots in Rio de Janeiro in 1845, when the city's bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, over time acquiring elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

In the late 19th century, the "cordões" (literally "laces" or "strings" in Portuguese) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were groups of people who would go paradeing through the streets playing music and dancing. Today they are known as "blocos" (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or specials t-shirts according to certain themes or to celebrate the Carnival. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighbourhoods or suburbs and include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.

This "blocos" have become a big part of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival. There are more than 100 "blocos" nowadays and each year this number increases. Some are big, some are small, most concentrate in square and later parade though the streets and a few stay in the same place all the time. Each "bloco" has its place or street to parade and the big ones usually close the streets for car traffic. They usually start in January and last till the end of Carnival, so since the beginning of the year you can see a group of people dancing samba in any street of Rio in the weekends and during Carnival every day.

"Blocos" parade in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, and in the centre of Rio. Usually the people who organize the "bloco" write their own music, which is played at all time during the parade, along with old carnival favourites called in Portuguese "Marchinhas de carnaval", and sambas that have become classics. Some important "blocos" are "O cordão do bola preta", that goes through the heart of Rio's historical center, and "Suvaco do Cristo" ("Christ's armpit" in Portuguese), in the neighbourhood, near Rio's Botanic Garden. Monobloco is another bloco that has become so famous that their band plays all year round in parties and small concerts.

Samba schools are very large, well-financed organizations that work year round in preparation for Carnival. Parading in the Sambadrome runs over four entire nights and is part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single samba school will be declared that year's winner. Blocos deriving from the samba schools also hold street parties in their respective suburbs, through which they parade along with their followers.mac


There are several major differences between Carnival in the state of Bahia in Brazil's Northeast Region and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The musical styles are different in each carnival; in Bahia there are many rhythms, including samba, samba-reggae, axé, and others, which are performed on a truck equipped with giant speakers and a platform where musicians play called a trio-elétrico. Massive numbers of people follow the trucks singing and dancing. The "Indian" groups were inspired by Western movies from the United States. The groups dress up as Native Americans and take on Native American names. Blocos Afros, or Afro groups, were influenced by the Black Pride Movement in the United States, independence movements in Africa, and reggae music that denounced racism and oppression. The groups inspired a renewed pride in African heritage.


The state of Pernambuco, another Northeast Region state, has a unique Carnival in its capital, Recife and in the near city of Olinda with the main rhythms called "frevo" and "maracatu" and the "Galo da Madrugada", the biggest carnival parade in the world considering the number of participants, according "The Guinness Book of World Records", as well as in other cities like Olinda and on the island of Itamaraca. "Frevo" is a type of music from Pernambuco especially typical.

Unlike the Carnaval in Salvador or Rio, Pernambuco's festivities do not include competitions between parade groups. Big groups in magnificent parades dance side by side with improvised others. "Troças" and "maracatus", mostly of African influence, begin one week before Carnival and end on the Sunday after Carnival up until Ash Wednesday. There are well-known groups with funny names such as: "Tell me you love me, damn it", "The Midnight Man" (with a famous giant dancing doll that leads the group), "Crazy Lover", "Olinda's Underpants" and "The Door".

Minas Gerais

Minas also holds some important carnival parades, mainly in the historic, baroque stylized cities like Ouro Preto, Mariana and Diamantina. There are also other major carnivals in the region, such as the one in Pompéu. Carnival em Minas Gerais is often characterized by blocos carnavalescos (carnival blocks) with varying themes and fantasy styles, almost always accompanied by fanfares (having at least fanfare on practically every town is a musical characteristic of the state). However, Minas Gerais carnival received firstly influence from Rio de Janeiro Carnival (several cities have their own samba schools) and later, some Axé groups from Bahia came to play in the state every carnival.

Carnival Photos and News

*pt icon [ Rio Carnival News - O Globo]
*pt icon [ Rio Carnival News - Jornal do Brasil]
*pt icon [ Rio Carnival News - O Dia]
*pt icon [ Rio Carnival News - UOL]

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