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“Yeah, baby you know how we do–You, me–You tell your friends – I’ll tell mine–It’s dat time again.”
As the song goes, it is the time of Carnival again, and Carnival is celebrated all around the world, and actually, it’s always Carnival time, somewhere. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is regarded as the Carnival capital of the world, and as the very biggest Carnival, it seems that all the other Carnivals are in one way or another compared to it. It is a high times celebration of both the performing arts and visual arts, in so many creative ways. The Rio Carnival is the most prevalently known about, and it attracts roughly 5000,000 foreign visitors each year.
The Biggest and Most Known
Rio Carnival is an all-out last wild fling lasting five full days before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday each year, when everyone is to abstain from all fleshly pleasures. And so, with all its excess, Carnival is profane and lauded for it. And in Rio, February is typically Rio’s hottest month of the summer and of the year, with Rio being in the Southern Hemisphere. Among the prevalence of carnival celebrations on every corner, the neighborhoods of Recife, Olinda and Salvador stand out as the most widely known about, and the very biggest of all is surely Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio Carnival–Rio’s Pride
In many important ways, Rio’s Carnival is a coming together of their entire culture. There is a spirit of total abandon in euphoric celebration with dancing, singing, excessive partying that goes nonstop the entire time–day and night. There is no other type of celebration in existence that is so overboard with unadulterated fun, fun, fun. There is much love and preparation that goes into Rio Carnival, with the sponsors being the participants. No outside money is a part of this celebration. The festivities kick off with King Momo–the Fat King being crowned and being given an enormous silver and gold key to the city, by the mayor. What happens next is a massive wave that engulfs the entire area, with streets, clubs, bars and everywhere else in wild celebration, where anything goes. The Samba Parade is the event that takes place as Carnival Rio culminates in one last thrust of excess and joy.
Favelas–Carnival Rio’s Heart of Hearts
Carnival is a time when especially the very poorest of Rio residents go all out in merriment. These poor neighborhoods in which they live are known as favelas. Here, the people are so poor that they live in shantytowns where houses are made out of cardboard and other found materials. These impoverished slums are typically without running water–and proper sewage systems. They rarely have any electricity and the quality of life is absolute dejection, yet come Carnival, and regardless of how abject their lives may be–the favelas-folk are the very lifeblood and heart of Carnival. Many of these favelas residents are passionately involved performers with samba schools.
A Unique Freedom
Because Rio Carnival is self-sustaining, it is not dependent on an outside authority or sponsorship. It’s free, and everyone is fully welcome. When it belonged within the upper class, the associated music was confined to waltzes, polkas and more formal Euro music. As a stronger working class emerged, these people developed their own music with special rhythms. Many of these people lived in what became known as “Little Africa,” and now officially known as the cradle of samba.