Understanding Carnival Like The Brazilians

Brazil is famous all over the world for its carnival. Last year we published an article about it with an emphasis on the samba school carnivals, that happen mainly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Another kind of Brazilian carnival is the one of Bahia, with trios elétricos and blocos de carnaval. In Salvador, the capital of Bahia, carnival attracts national and international tourists and makes the city even more lively and colorful for six days.

During carnival, that is from Thursday to Tuesday, there are more than two million people and about 230 carnival organizations around the city. These organizations are composed of blocos de carnaval divided into categories such as: afoxés, afros, trio, indigenous and cross-dressed. Blocos de carnaval (carnival blocks) are street bands and groups. To take part in one of them people have to buy a costume which is called an abadá – it is a set of colorful shorts and t-shirt.

But why do people buy abadás to take part in a bloco? The answer is to see and follow their favourite singer or band singing on the top of a trio elétrico. Trio elétrico (electrical trio) was created by Dodo and Osmar in 1950 and is a huge truck with an advanced and powerful sound system that works as a moving stage. Describing it is not enough to picture the real thing. You can only understand what a trio elétrico is by seeing and listening to one. I’m from Bahia and I can say that people who are born there and enjoy the carnival can’t stand still when a trio elétrico passes by. Brazilian composer and singer Caetano Veloso defines this feeling perfectly when he sings: “atrás do trio elétrico só não vai quem já morreu”, which means something like “the only ones who don’t follow the trio are those who are already dead”.

Singers and bands go on top of the trio playing Brazilian rhythms such as samba-reggae, axé, samba, pagode. The most famous singers and bands playing in carnival nowadays are Ivete Sangalo, Chiclete com Banana, Banda Eva, Asa de Águia, Cheiro de Amor, Timbalada, Daniela Mercury and Claudia Leitte.

Carnival in Salvador happens on the streets. A thick rope (corda in Portuguese) is held by men and women named cordeiros, meaning the ones who hold the rope. The cordeiros hold a thick rope to separate people with abadá from those who are without it and therefore out of the bloco and inside the area called pipoca. Abadás are expensive, so many people enjoy carnival from the pipoca (Portuguese for popcorn – because people behave like popcorn being cooked – jumping and dancing all the time). Celebrating carnival in the pipoca is not peaceful or safe, but if you choose a good place to stay, pointed out by someone who knows the city and the party and if you do not take anything in your pockets, pipoca can be pretty fun. In fact, your money should be well hidden and never in your pockets no matter where you choose to be in carnival.

Some people neither take part in a bloco nor go to pipoca. They go to camarotes, which are like cubicles or rooms lined in high steel structures so that whoever is there has a privileged view. Camarotes are regarded to be safer and more comfortable than pipoca or bloco. In my opinion, however, there’s nothing better than following the trio – it’s much more exciting!

By the way,  some blocos don’t have abadás but their own special costumes. You can read more about them next week.


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6 thoughts on “Understanding Carnival Like The Brazilians”

  1. Pingback: Atrás do trio elétrico só não vai quem já morreu - Lexiophiles

  2. I really enjoyed this. It was great to read about the different aspects of carnival. I learned a lot. I’m already looking forward to reading about the special costumes next week

  3. Pingback: Irreverence, Colors and African Heritage in Carnival in Salvador - Lexiophiles

  4. I went to a bloco in Barra (Rio) last weekend; very cool. Took a video of it and condensed it down to 6 minutes to publish on my YouTube channel (TriciaChaves). Nice article!

  5. Brazilian carnival is good only for drug dealers, prostitutes, mulattas who want to grab a foreigner (for marriage) and samba schools’ owners! I was born in Brazil and I live in Santos. Unfortunately I have to share my city with uncultured, uncivilized people who infest it!

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