Friday, 12 February 2010

Carnaval 4: and then...

I followed the tribal processions to the performances, and watched the dance in which about 200 dancers divided into men and women, boys and girls, and I thought, what an experience, to be a boy dancing in the line of boys between the lines of men doing their electric men dances, seeing all that power and strength and rhythm, picking your favourite guy, thinking, I’m going to be like him when I grow up. Ditto the girls, and how the women might feel, we are Women, and the men, we are Men, and imagining the kind of unity they might all feel doing that.
(pic from christiano)

Hunger dragged me away, via a few conversations, till the sky had grown dark and the crowds had grown big and all I seemed to be able to find was drunken noise.

I decided to go, turned the corner and stumbled across some incredibly beautiful singing. I went closer and found a singing bloco doing their warm up party in their backstreet, complete with kick-ass rhythm section.

Still singing, they began to walk and I was swept along with them. Their token English speaker befriended me and told me they were a group of tax administrators and other professionals who shared an office and had a sing together every day after lunch. The woman playing the accordion was their composer and conductor, he said. Others later told me that my my translator had been King of Carnaval 4 years in a row in his day.

Their music was Just Beautiful. I started to hum along and a tax administrator in heavy makeup and a bright red wig put her face in my face and sung the words very loud and clear at me. I hadn’t a clue what they meant but tried my hardest to copy her, I think that was what she wanted. Then the guitarist was taking my hand and looking into my eyes and singing something about the stars and it was all getting a bit much so time to turn the corner and find that bus.

A couple of streets later I was lured off course by the sounds of rhythms wriggling out of clapping hands, and it was such an alive clapping, not a mandatory clapping but an animated clapping, the sounds of a characterful group of clappers who really want to be clapping right now. I turned the corner to see hundreds of clapping hands raised above a procession of clowns, all rednosed and dressed up each in their own funny way, wiggling and tiggling down the street.

(thanks to Doutores de Alegria for the pic)

Behind the clowns were the sounds of a brass-and-drums marching band, some distance behind.

The clowns carried me away with them and they played with me and I played back and we turned the corner and under a street light the marching band - all straight and dressed in black and playing the local Frevo music really well and really loud - caught up with the clowns, who stopped and danced.

A pretty clown woman found a little clown girl dressed in an almost identical pretty maroon strapless satin dress with flouncy skirt, and they danced together. Each had such a sway to her, such an understated, captivating elegance, that a circle formed around them and suddenly there it was, a party under a streetlamp by a pavement café, the marching band and the dancing clowns, delighting everyone and themselves inside their spontaneous eruption of form out of chaos.
(this pic from christiano too)

I stayed with them awhile before my tired feet dragged me home. I don’t know how long they stayed under that street light, or when they left, who else bumped into whom and what happened then, but I do know this: what a fantastic form for a city-scale party. Get some music styles that everyone likes and knows. Invite everyone to make a group, however they want. Make sure there are enough musicians, drums and brass instruments to go around, and somehow have a historical precedent such that everyone has high hopes for Carnaval. Set an entire city free from normal life for five days: give each group their starting positions and times, and simply, simply, press go.

(pic from cristiano. )

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