The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the greatest shows on Earth!
Brazil is a complex country, culturally and socially. One of its most recognizable events is Carnaval which seems to be equally full of paradoxes. The Samba traditions in Brazil came from the West Africans brought to the country as slaves. The African tradition of parading through villages dancing and singing, while wearing fancy elaborate costumes of shells, feather, bones and masks as representations of their spiritual beliefs seems to have merged with the indigenous natives of South America and European traditions, particularly Italian and Portuguese Christian traditions, to form this very Brazilian festival.
The name Carnaval seems to originate from the Italian “Carnivale” (or carne levare) festival, which means “to remove meat” which was a tradition of dressing up in costumes to celebrate before the first day of Lent. Since Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, the festival adopted that appropriate name. The carnival in Italy became quite famous and spread to France, Spain and Catholic countries in Europe which was brought to Brazil during the Portuguese colonization of the country.
It then merged with the Catholic European traditions, the African traditions of the slaves and the indigenous customs and costumes of the Brazilian natives. This fusion of traditions has made the Brazilian Carnaval one of the most exciting festivals anyone can ever behold.
Brazil’s most known representation of Carnaval is the “School of Samba,” which isn’t really a school, but rather a large gathering of dancers and musicians who become the teams parading in the “Schools of Samba Competition.” The first school of samba in Brazil was called Deixa Falar and was created by a “carioca” (Rio de Janeiro resident) named Ismael Silva in 1928. That school of samba eventually changed its name to Estacio de Sa. Today, there are many schools of samba with numerous different “alas” or “wings” of the school representing music, history and dance. Each school typically has it’s own song and theme for every Carnaval. It is a complex and long planned for affair which makes one of the most spectacular spectacles on Earth.
Although Carnaval has spread and been adopted by nearly all of South, Central and Latin America, Rio de Janeiro is still particularly famous for the highly orchestrated and fantastic displays of its schools of samba which are watched by people around the globe every year.
I wrote a blog some time ago about the colorful samba dancers known as “passistas” here. Some scholars believe that the colorful costumes are meant to represent an Amazonian fertility goddess, while others swear they represent the Yoruban goddess of earthly pleasures, Pomba Gira.
Samba Gera Alegria! “Samba generates Happiness!”