Rio Carnival 2016 Dates - February 5th to February 10th
Rio Carnival 2015 Dates - February 13th to February 18th
Rio Carnival 2014 Dates - February 28th to March 4th
Rio Carnival 2013 Dates - February 9th to 12th
Brazil, a large South American country also a former colony of Portugal has a complex ethnic population which gives it a distinct flavor. Today, inspite of its accomplishments in other fields, Brazil is largely identified with the Carnival celebrated in one of its largest cities, Rio de Janeiro. The Rio Carnival is a 4 day riot of wanton celebrations, beginning 40 days before Easter. The Carnival officially begins on Saturday and concludes on Fat Tuesday, a day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. The Rio Carnival has a distinct flavor entirely due to the influence of its Native American and African inhabitants.
Carnaval as it is called in Portuguese has its origins in the pagan Saturnalia. The roots of the Carnival are in antiquity, when the Greeks and Romans celebrated the fertility festivals with masked parades and licentiousness. In Rio-1723 Portuguese immigrants from the islands of Acores, Madeira, and Cabo Verde introduced the Entrudo. The festivities included drenching each other and people would throw water and limes on one and all. The elite and the commoners all took part in the festivities
Ze Pereira, in the mid nineteenth century, took place on Carnival Monday was a motley crowd playing drums, tambourines and whistles. Grandes Sociedades or Great Societies was another masquerade in 1855 in which the Emperor also took part, it included 80 aristocrats in luxurious costumes with live music and garlanded with flowers.
Cordao Carna Valesao originated in 1870, the people masqueraded as queens, kings, witches, peasants and dressed accordingly. Cordoes de Velhos was a masked parade where the people wore large papier-mâché masks and pretended to be old men. Ranchos Carnavales Cos was the immigrant from Bahai’s offering to the Carnival. A working class celebration, it was a parade of costumed people accompanied by drums, flutes and other instruments. The parades stopped abruptly during World War II. Corso was introduced in 1970, a refined version of the earlier parades, where cars took part and were the earliest floats.
The modern Rio Carnival is a spontaneous flow of gaiety, merrymaking and joie de vivre, with no official sponsor, it happens because of the people and their unbridled passion for enjoyment. The Rio Carnival starts with the ritual offering of a massive silver and gold key to the Fat King Momo (God of Mockery) by the city Mayor. Each district in Rio has its very own carnival street band, at the last count there were nearly 300 street bands. The bands put up impromptu >dance performances from the beginning of the year at street corners accompanied by their distinctive music, and singing their own samba songs.
These carnival bands parade along distinct routes and are often joined by revelers in costumes, bikinis or plain drag. Blocos are smaller bands and the Bandas have a larger outlook. The identifying music of the Rio Carnival is the Samba, a uniquely Brazilian music with African roots and a dance form that is credited to the poor Afro-Brazilians. Samba is derived from Angolan word Semba meaning tribal/ritual music. The Samba schools are an important element of the Rio Carnival. Each school is affiliated to a neighborhood, usually a working class community or the poor Favelas. These various Samba schools create the pageants of the Samba Parade.
The Samba Parade is the highpoint of the Rio Carnival, a totally unique Brazilian offering with no precedence elsewhere. It is actually a competition between different Samba schools, a perfectly organized and orchestrated event. Preparations for the parade start in the preceding year of the carnival. Each school chooses its own theme for the year, its unique samba song, designs its costumes and floats. December is the month for rehearsals.The Samba Parade of each school consists of an Ala, a wing of 100 people costumed similarly and who illustrate the school’s theme. The Vanguard commission is the opening group of 12-15 dancers in the front of the parade who introduce the school to the spectators. A float is part of this wing bearing the school’s symbols and some celebrities.
The Flag bearer and her handsome chivalrous escort are an elegantly dancing couple. The lady carries the school’s flag and her escort protects her as they dance their way down the avenue. Swirling Ladies are a group of 80 elaborately dressed old ladies swirling down the avenue.Percussion Band or the Bateria are the throbbing pulsating heart of the carnival, comprising of 250-350 drummers.Vocalist is a male vocalist with accompanists following the Bateria.Queen of Drummers is an enchantingly beautiful female samba dancer ahead of the percussionists.Samba dancers or the Parsistas are 15-20 of the accomplished and finest samba dancers.Stewards of the Flow ensure the smooth movement of the parade.
The Sambodromo is a half mile long samba stadium specifically meant for the Samba parade. It consists of the main parading avenue and several concrete seating structures for the spectators. The brainchild of the architect Oscar Niemeyer, it opened in 1984 and can accommodate 70,000 people. Carnival time is when the stadium comes alive with flashing, pulsating lights and an incredible Samba parade.