The Carnival of Brazil is an annual festival held during the Friday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period before Easter. Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In the southeastern cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Vitória, huge organized parades are led by samba schools.The northeastern cities of Recife, Olinda, Salvadorand Porto Seguro have organized groups parading through streets, and public interacts directly with them. The typical genres of music of Brazilian carnival are, in Rio de Janeiro (and Southeast Region in general): the samba-enredo, thesamba de bloco, the samba de embalo and the marchinha; in Pernambuco and Bahia (and Northeast Region in general) the main genres are: the frevo, the maracatu, the samba-reggae and Axé music. Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Except for industrial production, retail establishments such as malls, and carnival-related businesses, the country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. Rio de Janeiro’s carnival alone drew 4.9 million people in 2011, with 400,000 being foreigners. These are some styles of carnival in different regions:
- Rio de Janeiro Carnival
Rio de Janeiro style originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and creolizing elements derived from Native American and African cultures. Street Carnival Bands, called “Blocos de Rua“, have become an expressive feature of Rio’s Carnival. Today, they number more than 440 (considering 2012 Rio Carnival only) and the groups increase each year. Blocos parades occur in nearly every neighborhood throughout the city and metropolitan areas, but the most famous are the ones in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, and in downtown Rio. Organizers often compose their own music themes that are added to the performance and singing of classic “marchinhas” and samba popular songs. Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations (as well as illegal gambling groups), who work year round in preparation for Carnival. All performers at the Sambadrome have to wear a costume. Some honoured members of the school or community may receive it free, but normally most will have to pay for their own costume. Carnival time in Rio is a very interesting, but is also the most expensive time to visit Rio. Hotel rooms and other lodgings can be up to four times more expensive than the regular rates. There are big crowds at some locations and life is far from ordinary in many parts of town.
- Bahian Carnival
There are several major differences between Carnival in the state of Bahia in Northeastern Brazil and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The musical styles are different at each carnival; in Bahia there are many rhythms, including samba, samba-reggae, axé, etc. Every year, about half a million tourists are attracted to Salvador. It’s also possible to watch everything from the Camarotes (ringside seats) spread out along the way.
- Pernambuco Style
The North East state of Pernambuco has unique Carnivals in its present capital Recife and in its colonial capital Olinda. Their main rhythms are the frevo and the maracatu. Galo da Madrugada is the biggest carnival parade in the world, considering the number of participants, according The Guinness Book of World Records. It means “dawn’s rooster” and parades, as the name suggests, in the morning only.
- São Paulo Style
The carnival in São Paulo takes place in the Sambodrome of Anhembi on the Friday and Saturday night of the week of Carnival, as opposed to Rio’s Carnival, which is held on Sunday and Monday night. Various “samba schools” compete in a huge parade. Each school presents a different theme, which they expose through their costumes, dance, music and the allegorical cars or “carros alegóricos”, huge vehicles decorated according to the theme designed specifically for the parade). The schools are responsible for choosing their own themes, which usually revolve around historical happenings or some sort of cultural or political movement.
- Minas Gerais Style
Minas also holds some important carnival parades, mainly in the historic cities of Ouro Preto, Mariana, São João del Rei and Diamantina. They are held mostly by students’ houses, which attract a majority of young people from the neighbor states. There are also other major parades in the region, such as the one in Pompéu.