LETTERS

    LETTERS

    There are between 16.5 million and 30 million Brazilians working in
    the informal economy, meaning that between 15% and 50% of Brazil’s gross domestic product
    (GDP) is being generated by the informal work force. Although 60% of these workers have
    less than eight years of formal education, 300 thousand completed high school, and at
    least six thousand of them have a college degree, an indication of lack of job
    opportunities. What to do? Experts agree that the government must act swiftly and invest
    in education and technical skills training.
    By Brazzil Magazine

    A poor man’s happiness resembles
    The grand illusion of Carnaval

    "A Felicidade" (Happiness)
    by Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes

    Carnaval, disillusion
    I left pain waiting for me at home
    And I sang and danced
    Dressed up as a king
    But on Wednesday the curtains always fall

    "Sonho de Carnaval" (Carnaval Dream)
    by Chico Buarque de Hollanda

    Every year, seven weeks before Easter, Brazil stops. It is Carnaval time. For
    four days from Saturday through Tuesday, as a climax to the Southern Hemisphere summer,
    the country sings and dances in dance halls and clubs, on the streets and beaches, or
    wherever there are people and music. In cities like Salvador, the celebration may go on
    for seven or eight days.

    The music may be provided by a three-hundred-piece escola-de-samba drum section,
    a horn-and-percussion band, or a spontaneous group of people beating cans and bottles.
    Some wear special outfits for the occasion, some don’t. You’ll see clowns, pirates,
    sheiks, Indians, and lots of men dressed up as women. On display are as many different
    costumes as the imagination can conjure. Women dress in sophisticated costumes or in very
    little at all—sometimes just shoes, miniscule bikinis, and some body paint. Carnaval
    is a hedonistic party in which all that counts is joy and pleasure. As an office clerk
    told us, "During Carnaval the devil is on the loose. Nobody belongs to anybody."

    Not every city in Brazil has an intense street Carnaval. In some all you’ll find are
    relatively well-behaved indoor balls. People with less carnavalesco souls use the
    holidays to travel to places where they can relax far from the drums during the day and,
    if they feel like it, go dancing at night. But between New Year’s Eve and Carnaval nothing
    really important is decided in Brazil. Quoting a popular Chico Buarque song, most people
    will say, "I’m saving myself for when Carnaval comes." The weather is hot,
    people become more outgoing, and sensuality is in the air. But amidst all the craziness
    and frivolity, Carnaval serves the important purpose for Brazilians of maintaining
    cultural traditions—encoded in the music, dance, and costumes of the celebrations
    across the country.

    Carnaval is a pre-Lent celebration (like Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in many
    Spanish-speaking countries) that has its roots in pre-Christian festivities held by the
    ancient Greeks, Romans, and others. Around the sixth century B.C., the Greeks held spring
    festivals in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine and the power of wild nature. Often,
    merrymakers would parade down the streets of their towns, sometimes with floats. The
    Romans carried on the seasonal celebration, expanding it into Saturnalia, wherein
    slaves and masters would exchange clothes and engage in orgiastic behavior, and Bacchanalia,
    drunken feasts in honor of Bacchus, the Roman version of Dionysus. It was, and is, a time
    to make merry, to drink, dance, and be crazy. The normal social order is turned upside
    down and mocked, and anything goes.

    Despite their pagan origins, these festivities were assimilated into the traditions of
    Roman Catholic countries in Europe. As Carnaval evolved, it retained some of the
    characteristics of the ancient celebrations, such as the use of masks and the time of
    year—generally February—but started losing its orgiastic features. It remained
    an important societal safety valve, a time to vent pent-up frustrations.

    Entrudo, Zé Pereiras,
    Cordões, and Ranchos

    Carnaval arrived in Brazil in the form of the chaotic Portuguese entrudo, in
    which celebrants would go to the streets and throw mud, dirty water, flour balls, and
    suspect liquids at one another, often triggering violent riots. The first masked Carnaval
    ball in Rio took place in 1840 at the Hotel Itália, with waltzes and polkas as the music
    of choice. Out in the streets, a young Portuguese shoemaker named José Nogueira Paredes
    had the idea in 1848 of entering a Carnaval parade and beating a big bass drum. In the
    following years many Zé Pereiras (a name that possibly was a distortion of José
    Paredes) filled the city with their songs and drums. The first European-style parades
    appeared in 1850, and these would become competitive events with horses, military bands,
    and adorned floats, often sponsored by aristocratic groups called sociedades.

    Around this time, Rio’s poor people, who could not afford tickets to the expensive
    masked balls, and who were bored by the orderly parades, formed cordões, male-only
    groups that celebrated violently in the streets and paraded to African-based rhythms. This
    Afro-Brazilian influence increased after 1870, when the decline of the coffee plantations
    in northern Rio de Janeiro state forced a great number of slaves and former slaves to
    emigrate. Many came to Rio, the capital, looking for work.

    From cordões came ranchos, a more civilized type of cordão that
    includes women. They made their first organized Carnaval appearance in 1873 and are
    important in the history of Carnaval for their introduction of themes to their parades.
    Like moving theater pieces, ranchos today still tell stories, even though their
    space in Carnaval has largely been taken by the escolas de samba. Ameno Reseda,
    Flor do Abacate, and other famous ranchos parade now on the Monday of Carnaval’s
    four days. They have maintained their elegance of past years and dance to marcha-ranchos,
    slow and more melodically developed variations of the marcha.

    The Marcha

    In 1899, the cordão Rosa de Ouro asked composer Chiquinha Gonzaga (1847-1935)
    to write a song for their parade. She composed a tune that incorporated a boisterous
    rhythm that she had heard cordões parading to as they passed by her house. The
    result was "Ô Abre Alas" (Make Way), the first registered marcha as well
    as the first song to be written specifically for Carnaval. It was also an enormous popular
    success, having just what it takes to be a successful Carnaval song: a contagious rhythm
    and simple, easy-to-memorize lyrics.

    Hey, make way
    I want to pass
    I like parties
    I can’t deny that

    In the 1920s, the marcha (or marchinha) began taking over Carnaval
    celebrations, especially the indoor ones. It was based on the song form developed by
    Gonzaga but gradually added influences from ragtime and the North American one-step.
    Today, marcha is a happy, festive style. It has a strong accent on the downbeat,
    lots of horns and drum rolls on the snares, and simple, humorous lyrics that often contain
    some kind of social criticism.

    The 1930s were the golden decade of Carnaval song writing. Innumerable marchas
    and sambas written then are classics today. The generation of composers that became
    popular around that decade—Noel Rosa, Ary Barroso, Lamartine Babo, Braguinha, and
    others—are legendary and their songs are still sung during Carnaval and frequently
    recorded by contemporary artists. Other famous and successful Carnaval song writers of
    this era include Caninha, Sinhô, Eduardo Souto, Haroldo Lobo, Joubert de Carvalho,
    Benedito Lacerda, Antônio Nássera, Romeu Gentil, and Wilson Batista.

    Samba has been the most popular Carnaval music in Rio since the early sixties. But even
    though marchas have taken second billing ever since, the old standards from decades
    ago are still performed every year during Carnaval time, especially at indoor balls. And bandas,
    which pass through Rio’s streets with crowds trailing behind, primarily play marchas.
    Bandas have drums and a brass section and are informal in their structure, with
    some people wearing costumes or T-shirts with the banda’s name, and others dressing
    as they wish. In many ways, bandas have brought back the spontaneity of Brazil’s
    old street Carnavals. Almost every neighborhood and suburb of Rio has its own such group
    now, following the example of the pioneering Banda de Ipanema, founded in the 1960s.

    Another type of celebration in Rio’s Carnaval comes from blocos de empolgação,
    great masses of people wearing the same costume that parade in one solid block, dancing
    very enthusiastically. To see a big bloco like Cacique de Ramos, whose members
    always dress up like Indians, or Bafo da Onça (Jaguar’s Breath), with their six to seven
    thousand members coming down the street, is an unforgettable sight as they dance to
    thundering samba de bloco, played by the bateria that closes the parade.
    Samba, of course, is also the mainstay of Rio’s most important Carnaval institution, the escolas
    de samba (samba schools).

    The Escolas de Samba

    Since their beginning in 1928, the escolas de samba have been an integral part
    of Rio’s Carnaval and have evolved into a grand spectacle, an overwhelming experience for
    both participants and observers. The parade of the escolas encompasses dazzling
    floats, outlandish costumes, thousands of dancers, and veritable symphony orchestras of
    rhythm. It is like a giant popular opera, with so much happening, musically and visually,
    that you can’t possibly take it all in at once.

    The first escola de samba, Deixa Falar (Let Them Talk), was founded on August
    12, 1928, in Estácio by Ismael Silva, Bide, Armando Marçal, Nilton Bastos, and others.
    Apparently, the name "samba school" was an ironic reference to a grade school
    across the street from where the group met. Deixa Falar was more like a club or a
    fraternity, dedicated to making music and parading during Carnaval.

    At the time, however, the police discouraged the blocos (Carnaval groups) of
    blacks and mulattos from celebrating downtown. This wasn’t unusual, because the police
    were still repressing many manifestations of Afro-Brazilian culture at the time. In
    defiance, Deixa Falar went out for a small parade during the Carnaval of 1929 in Estácio
    and Praça Onze, where also appeared blocos from Mangueira, Oswaldo Cruz, and other
    neighborhoods. Deixa Falar was short-lived: by 1933 it was defunct. But a seed had been
    planted, and other samba schools were soon created.

    On April 30, 1929, the members of several blocos formed an escola that
    ultimately proved to be the most traditional and longest-lived of them all: Estação
    Primeira de Mangueira (Number-One Station of Mangueira), whose founders included famed
    composers Cartola and Carlos Cachaça. Mangueira made its debut as a samba school in the
    Carnaval of 1930, and has since attracted many illustrious songwriters and singers,
    including Nelson Sargento, Elza Soares, Alcione, Leci Brandão, and Jamelão.

    Another milestone came in 1935, when Paulo da Portela (Paulo Benjamim de Oliveira),
    Heitor dos Prazeres, and others created Portela. The new escola had its roots in
    the bloco Baianinhas de Oswaldo Cruz, which was founded in 1923 and later turned
    into Vai Como Pode. Portela was the most innovative of the escolas for many
    decades.

    Also in 1935, the Getúlio Vargas federal administration stopped discouraging Rio’s escolas
    and officially recognized their parades. Consequently, the festivities moved from Praça
    Onze to the wide avenues of downtown Rio. Every year grandstands were assembled, drawing
    large audiences, generating big expenses, and creating terrible traffic hazards. This
    problem was solved in 1984 when the city built the Passarela do Samba (Samba Path), on Rua
    Marquês de Sapucaí. Cariocas call it the Sambódromo. Designed by the famous
    architect Oscar Niemeyer, it is a seven-hundred-meter-long pathway flanked by concrete
    stands that seat ninety thousand people. At its end is the huge, aptly named Praça da
    Apoteose (Apotheosis Square).

    Over the past few decades, the escolas have grown to become vital cultural
    institutions, and their importance stretches far beyond just staging parades. By 1990,
    there were fifty-six officially registered escolas de samba in Rio de Janeiro and
    dozens more in other Brazilian cities. Today, there are also several dozen informal samba
    schools and blocos located in countries such as Germany, Japan, Great Britain, the
    United States, and Finland.

    Although some escolas in Rio are located in middle-class neighborhoods, many are
    in favelas or working-class areas, with mostly low-income people as their members.
    For them, the escolas are a source of pride and in some cases the center of the
    community in which they are located. They are often social and recreational clubs, and
    some sponsor schools and nurseries and provide medical assistance and other services to
    their members. The money for all this comes from members’ donations, and income from
    dances, record sales, open rehearsals, and performances all over the world. The escolas
    are also supported by the rich, including many engaged in questionable activities such
    as illegal lotteries and drug-dealing.

    The parade during Carnaval is a ninety-minute climax, around which life in an escola
    revolves the whole year. "The parade is the realization of people. They feel like
    kings for a day," says Hermínio Marquês Dias Filho, director of the Arranco do
    Engenho de Dentro escola de samba.

    Much of the passion Cariocas display toward their escola’s presentation
    is generated by the event’s competitive nature. Parade presentations are judged on music,
    theme, costumes, and other criteria. Those parading at the Sambódromo vie to remain or
    become one of the sixteen samba schools showcased in the select "Group A," which
    is the focus of the media’s attention. Each year, the two lowest scoring escolas
    are demoted to "Group B," while the two highest ranked "B" units are
    promoted, and they will parade with the top group at the next Carnaval.

    The Parade

    Mounting an escola-de-samba parade is a vast undertaking that involves tens of
    thousands of people, including musicians, dancers, craftsmen, costume-makers, and other
    contributors, but its basic format is always the same. To begin with, every parade must
    have a theme, the enredo, which might be political or historical or a tribute to a
    particular person. Until 1996 the enredo had to be related to Brazil. It is chosen
    by the carnavalesco, a type of art director who is responsible for the visual
    aspect of the escola. After the enredo is approved by the board of
    directors, the carnavalesco writes a synopsis of it, describing the message he
    wants to visually convey in the parade. Then, around June, this synopsis is distributed
    among the escola’s composers so that they can begin writing sambas on the theme.
    Such a samba is called a samba-enredo.

    When the composers have their sambas ready, they submit them to the directors, who
    choose the best ones. Around September, rehearsals begin in the escola’s
    headquarters, where musicians play old sambas and the contending samba-enredos. The
    reaction of the members to the new sambas will be decisive in the picking of the samba-enredo
    for the parade. On a certain night, usually at the end of October, the escola
    chooses the winner from the finalists.

    It is a very special night. The escola-de-samba headquarters is noisy and
    crowded, and the composers organize groups of rooters who dance and sing loudly, carrying
    flags adorned with the name of their favorite samba. The competing sambas are sung in
    sequence, and at the end of the night the escola’s president announces the winning
    song. The result is not always welcome and fights can break out. The tension is
    understandable: the samba-enredo is crucial for a good parade and also generates
    money for the winning songwriters. The samba-enredos from the escolas in
    Group A are included in an annual album that usually sells more than a million copies.

    For Carnaval in 1988, Mangueira’s samba-enredo was "100 Anos de Liberdade:
    Realidade ou Ilusão" (One Hundred Years of Freedom: Reality or Illusion),
    commemorating the centennial of Brazil’s abolition of slavery in 1888 and protesting the
    poverty of many blacks in the country. The lyrics, written by Hélio Turco, Jurandir, and
    Alvinho, included an allusion to Ary Barroso’s "Aquarela do Brasil."

    Today, in reality, where is freedom
    Where is that which nobody has seen
    Little boy, don’t forget that the Negro also built
    The riches of Brazil
    Ask the Creator who painted this watercolor
    Free of the plantation’s whip
    Imprisoned in the misery of the favela

    Vila Isabel’s samba-enredo that year, "Kizomba, Festa da Raça"
    (Kizomba, Festival of the Race), sang of Zumbi, the famous leader of the Palmares quilombo,
    samba singer Clementina de Jesus, and other aspects of Afro-Brazilian culture. In
    contrast, other escolas in 1988 took themes such as Brazil’s deepening economic
    crisis, Rio’s worsening problems, the magic of cinema, and the highly popular Trapalhões
    comedy troupe. In any year, some samba-enredos are celebratory, while others are
    serious protests. And by the time Carnaval comes round, most people in Rio know many of
    that year’s samba-enredos by heart, having purchased the annual album (recorded and
    released before the parades), or having heard the most popular enredos played over
    and over on the radio.

    After an escola’s samba-enredo is chosen, all energy is focused on
    preparations and rehearsals for the parade. By this time, the carnavalesco has
    already designed and ordered the costumes for the alas—the parade units into
    which escolas de samba are divided. Each ala wears a different costume and
    plays a specific part in the development of the theme. A big escola like Mangueira
    has sixty-five alas with an average of eighty members each—more than five
    thousand participants. Most have to buy their costumes from the escola, and many do
    so by making small monthly payments (some costumes are inexpensive; others are quite
    elaborate and costly). Sometimes wealthy contributors pay for the outfits of poor but
    loyal members.

    Two alas are mandatory. The ala das baianas, introduced by Mangueira in
    1943, includes older ladies dressed Bahian-style who wear turbans and broad, long-laced
    dresses. It recalls the Bahian women who practiced candomblé and participated in
    the blocos that merged to form Mangueira. The other obligatory ala is the comissão
    de frente (front commission), a group that usually wears costumes related to the enredo.
    They open the parade, walking solemnly or performing a slow choreography.

    Practically every Brazilian can dance to samba, but few master its specific steps.
    Those men and women who do are called passistas. The most important passistas in
    the escola are the porta-bandeira (flag-bearer), always a woman, and the mestre-sala
    (master of ceremonies), a man. These characters made their first appearances with the
    nineteenth-century sociedades. Dancing elegantly, the porta-bandeira carries
    the escola flag, while the mestre-sala dances around her, providing symbolic
    protection.

    In between alas come the carros alegóricos—huge decorated floats
    that depict important aspects of the enredo. These floats are true pieces of art,
    mixtures of sculpture, architecture, and engineering. On top of them stand the destaques—men
    and women wearing either luxurious, expensive costumes or almost nothing at all. The
    making of the floats employs hundreds of people for at least six months. Seamstresses,
    sculptors, carpenters, smiths, and painters work busily together like a colony of ants up
    to the last minute so that everything is ready for the February parade.

    Each big escola typically has from four thousand to more than five thousand
    members who perform in its parade. To organize this many people is extremely complicated.
    That is what the diretores de harmonia (harmony directors) are for. They do not
    have fun. They just work. Hours before the escola enters the Sambódromo, the
    harmony director begins organizing the parade in an outside area, the concentração
    (concentration), putting the arriving ala members in their proper places and
    setting the alas in the right order.

    Some time before the parade, the puxador (main singer) in the sound float begins
    to sing the samba-enredo. He is responsible for keeping five thousand voices in
    time with the drum section, the bateria. He will sing the same song for almost two
    hours and must make no mistakes. Slowly the members start singing with him, stimulated by
    the harmony director, who also takes care of keeping the energy high during the parade.
    After the whole escola has sung the samba two or three times without accompaniment,
    the most exciting moment in the parade preparation occurs: the musical entrance of the bateria.
    Anyone who has witnessed this moment will never forget it. Some three hundred
    percussionists under the command of the mestre de bateria (percussion conductor)
    start playing perfectly in synch with the singing, coordinated by the mestre’s
    whistle—which serves as his baton.

    The Bateria

    The number and type of percussion instruments used varies from escola to escola.
    Arranco’s Hermínio gives the following as a typical line-up for a large bateria,
    by instrument and number of musicians playing that instrument: surdo (30), caixa
    (40), tarol (40), repique (40), tamborim (70), pandeiro (15), prato
    (10), cuíca (20), frigideira (20), agogô (20), reco-reco
    (20), and chocalho or ganzá (40). But each escola has its own mix.
    For example, in 1997 Mangueira used only surdos, caixas, repiques, tamborins,
    cuícas, agogôs, reco-recos, and chocalhos.

    There are three types of surdos usually used by the baterias. The most
    important is the surdo de marcação (marking surdo), also called the surdão,
    surdo de primeira, or surdo maracanã. It is the heaviest surdo, the
    one that plays on the second beat of the 2/4 samba. The surdo de marcação holds
    the rhythm and is the base for the whole bateria.

    The second largest surdo is the surdo resposta (answering surdo).
    As its name suggests, it answers the surdo de marcação by playing on the first
    beat, though less forcefully than the latter. The surdo cortador (cutting surdo)
    is the smallest surdo, and it plays on the beats and off-beats, "cutting"
    the rhythm and adding syncopation. In small samba groups, the percussionist uses one surdo
    to play all three parts by himself—Airto Moreira provides an example of this
    technique on the samba-based song "Dreamland" on Joni Mitchell’s album Don
    Juan’s Reckless Daughter.

    The conductor has a truly educated ear: during rehearsals he is able to spot one
    percussionist making a mistake among thirty playing the same instrument and a hundred
    playing others. He goes up to the erring musician and shouts instructions or tells him to
    stop and listen. And he must be able to keep all the percussionists synchronized in
    complicated viradas (changes in percussion patterns) and paradinhas (full
    stops), in which a bateria ceases playing during the parade so that everyone can
    hear other members carrying the rhythm with only their voices. Then the playing resumes.
    This operation is the musical equivalent of stopping a jumbo jet’s take-off at the end of
    the runway and then getting it to take off again, but they do it.

    A bateria percussionist is, together with the composers, passistas, destaques,
    baianas, and directors, part of the elite in a escola de samba. It’s
    challenging to be one of them. Lobão, a rock drummer and singer who has played tamborim
    for Mangueira, says, "I took a test to enter, a very hard one. The technique is very
    sophisticated. You’ve got to be very precise with a tamborim. You play together
    with seventy others, but everybody’s got to play at the same time. You’ve got to hear only
    one beat. If not, the effect is lost."

    In the concentração, when the bateria starts playing, the energy level
    rises incredibly. As Lobão puts it, "The sound is twice as loud as a heavy metal
    band." Excitement takes over. Everything is ready for the parade.

    Right before the gates open and the clock starts running, fireworks explode in the air.
    Then the comissão de frente steps into the Sambódromo, greeting people and asking
    permission to pass. One more parade has begun.

    The bateria follows the first half of the escola into the passarela.
    They pass in front of thousands of spectators, and along the way come to a space set off
    to the side for the bateria to play in front of the jury. There, the drummers and
    percussionists play before the judges, while the second half of the escola passes.
    Then, the bateria, following the last ala, closes the parade. By this time
    the next escola is preparing to enter the Sambódromo.

    The jury gives grades from one to ten for theme, samba-enredo, harmony, comissão
    de frente, mestre-sala and porta-bandeira, costumes, evolução
    (dance performance of the escola), bateria, baianas, and carros
    alegóricos. The results are known on Ash Wednesday. The winning escola celebrates
    in its headquarters, stretching Carnaval for one more night.

    One big escola parade may cost more than a million dollars. It may seem absurd
    for poor people to spend so much money on something that lasts just ninety minutes. But
    what moves them is passion. Just as they are crazy about soccer, people in Rio love their escolas
    de samba. People do not say, "My favorite escola is Mangueira" or
    "I like Vila Isabel." People say, "I am Salgueiro" or "I am
    Portela." It’s part of them. It’s in their blood. It’s in their souls.

    Although today’s escolas are comprised of people from all races and social
    classes, they remain vital strongholds of Afro-Brazilian culture. As a standard-bearer
    from a São Paulo escola told us, "Candomblé and escolas de samba are
    the twentieth century’s quilombos."

    TV Coverage
    and Growth

    At the start of the 1960s, the escola Acadêmicos de Salgueiro hired Fernando
    Pamplona (born in 1926), who became the first outside professional designer to be a carnavalesco
    and design an escola’s float and costumes. When Salgueiro, with Pamplona in
    charge, won the samba school parade in 1963, it was indicative of how the role of carnavalesco
    and the ambitiousness of each escola’s presentation had both expanded greatly. From
    that point on, the parades became increasingly theatrical and grandiose. This trend
    coincided with the growth of the Brazilian television industry, and since the 1960s the
    parades have been televised live every year, from start to finish.

    The parades were generating huge amounts of money, but at first the samba schools
    received very little of it. Riotur, the state tourism agency, had a lock on the ticket
    sales and broadcast rights income and handed out only a small percentage of the profits to
    the escolas. Then in 1988 the major samba schools formed an association and
    demanded a new deal. They got it: 40 percent of Sambódromo ticket sales and a
    one-million-dollar contract with TV Globo (of which Riotur received 10 percent). The escolas
    also formed their own record company to release the lucrative annual compilation album
    of samba-enredos.

    The samba parades are now of an enormous scale and technical sophistication that would
    have been inconceivable in 1928 to the founders of Deixa Falar. They are also vital to
    Rio’s tourist business and generate huge sums through broadcast, record, and video rights.
    Not everyone has been happy about the transformation of the escolas into giant
    artistic and commercial enterprises. Paulinho da Viola, a major samba figure of the last
    four decades, left Portela for many years because he felt that the escolas had
    become overly commercialized and bureaucratized, a common complaint in the 1970s and
    1980s. Paulinho da Viola feels that something got lost along the way. "Nowadays
    commercial interests are more important than cultural ones," he told us. "What
    was spontaneous has become official. An escola de samba now has an average of five
    thousand members. You can imagine the fights there are to choose the suppliers for all
    these people who will need shoes, costumes. That has attracted people to the escolas who
    don’t belong to that cultural environment." And, what is worse, the funding needs of
    the samba schools has made many dependent on the financial largesse of drug lords and
    gangsters who run the jogo do bicho (animal game) lottery. But, despite having
    suffered some high-profile defections, venerable escolas like Portela and Mangueira
    continue to mount ever more ambitious and lavish parades each year.

    The Major
    Escolas de Samba

    Portela has been responsible for setting most of patterns that the others have
    followed. Its founder, Paulo da Portela, and his associates introduced into the parade
    such now obligatory items as the enredo (theme), the commisão de frente (front
    commission), and the carros alegóricos (decorated floats). In addition, many famed
    composers and singers have been associated with Portela, including Zé Keti, Paulinho da
    Viola, Candeia, João Nogueira, and Paulo César Pinheiro.

    Portela is located in the neighborhood of Madureira, as is another historically
    important escola, Império Serrano. Composers Silas de Oliveira (1916-1972) and
    Mano Décio da Viola (1908-1984), singers Jorginho do Império (Mano’s son) and Roberto
    Ribeiro, and Ivone Lara, the first woman to have one of her compositions sung by an escola,
    are among those associated with Império during its history.

    While Salgueiro set the precedent for ever more ostentatious parades, Beija-Flor has
    taken this tendency to its extreme and is now famous, though occasionally criticized, for
    its visually glittering and luxurious presentations. Fittingly, Joãozinho Trinta—who
    worked under Pamplona at Salgueiro—was Beija-Flor’s carnavalesco in the 1970s
    and 1980s; he later moved to Unidos do Viradouro, which was champion in 1997. Aside from
    its audacious floats and costumes, Beija-Flor has also had talented singers such as
    Neguinho da Beija-Flor, a puxador who has recorded several best-selling samba
    albums.

    Mocidade Independente, another major force, is famed for the perfection of their bateria,
    generally conceded to be the most synchronized and precise of any escola. One of
    its past conductors, Mestre André, was the inventor of the immensely difficult,
    aforementioned paradinha maneuver.

    Today’s escolas have a faster, more uniform batucada than in the days of
    old, in large part because of time constraints. If a samba school takes longer than ninety
    minutes for its parade, it loses precious points in the final judging. Before the events
    were so organized, the samba schools played slower, mellower, and more melodic samba-enredos.
    Nowadays they are faster, jumpier, and less musically differentiated. Still, there are
    clear differences between the escolas. For example, Mangueira sounds different
    because traditionally all of its surdos play only on the second beat of each bar.
    Salgueiro displays a heavier use of cuícas, which adds more flavor to the general
    sound and lessens its percussive impact. And Império Serrano’s extensive employment of agogôs
    gives its sound a more metallic texture. Other important samba schools include Unidos do
    Cabuçu, Unidos da Tijuca, São Clemente, Estácio de Sá, Vila Isabel, Imperatriz
    Leopoldinense, Caprichosos de Pilares, Lins Imperial, Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz, Império
    da Tijuca, Grande Rio, Unidos da Ponte, and União da Ilha.

    Escolas de samba have many talents, old and young, traditionalists or
    revolutionaries. They exemplify the creative power of a Carioca population that, in
    general, lives in very poor socioeconomic conditions. The escolas are often their
    community center, and samba itself their spiritual sustenance.

    Excerpted from the samba chapter of The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa
    Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha, the second
    edition of which is being published by Temple University Press (800) 447-1656;
    http://www.temple.edu/tempress and is also available in Los Angeles at Culture Planet in
    the Westside Pavilion, (310) 441-9808. The book’s other chapters cover bossa nova, MPB,
    Minas Gerais, Bahia, the Northeast, Brazilian rock and Brazilian jazz and instrumental
    music.
    The 248-page book contains 167 illustrations and a large glossary and
    discography. The authors can be reached at jcmcgowan@aol.com
    and rhysp@copa.rio.com.br

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    The Brazilian Sound

    Tell Me: When Is Carnaval?

    The info below comes
    courtesy of www.worldsamba.org 

    When is Carnaval????

    Carnaval dates thru 2040!

    One of the most frequent questions we get here at our website is "what is
    the date of Carnaval this year?". Well, believe it or not, it is not an
    easy question to answer. You have to be part astrologer, part
    mathematician, and part priest! Here is how you calculate the Carnaval
    date:

    50-47 days before the first Sunday after the first full moon after Vernal
    Equinox, or in layman’s terms, Ash Wednesday is calculated as 46 days
    before Easter Sunday, and Carnaval falls on the 4 days before Ash
    Wednesday. Complicated, no?

    CARNAVAL DATES FROM 2003 TO 2040:

    2003 – March 1-4
    2004 – February 21-24
    2005 – February 5-8
    2006 – February 25-28
    2007 – February 17-20
    2008 – February 2-5
    2009 – February 21-24
    2010 – February 13-16
    2011 – March 5-8
    2012 – February 18-21
    2013 – February 9-12
    2014 – March 1-4
    2015 – February 14-17
    2016 – February 6-9
    2017 – February 25-28
    2018 – February 10-13
    2019 – March 2-5
    2020 – February 22-25
    2021 – February 13-16
    2022 – February 26 – March 1
    2023 – February 18-21
    2024 – February 10-13
    2025 – March 1-4
    2026 – February 14-17
    2027 – February 6-9
    2028 – February 26-29
    2029 – February 10-13
    2030 – March 2-5
    2031 – February 22-25
    2032 – February 7-10
    2033 – February 26 – March 1
    2034 – February 18-21
    2035 – February 3-6
    2036 – February 23-26
    2037 – February 14-17
    2038 – March 6-9
    2039 – February 19-22
    2040 – February 11-14

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    your
    comments to
    Brazzil

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