Bahia Calling

Bahia Calling1

Casa de Yemanja. A meeting house for local fishermen and home to a shrine for this Sea Orixa (goddess) who is celebrated EVERYWHERE here!

Oh handsome land, I’m pleased to meet you!

I’ve arrived in ‘Little Africa’ as my Manchester pal Nuradin calls it. The bountiful fruit basket of Brasil. Archetypal images of Brasil depict Bahia first and foremost – palm trees along big white sand beaches, seafood, colourful sweet fruit, hibiscus flowers, lush jungle and beija flors (hummingbirds), statuesque people with black skin and green eyes.

Bahia map Collage

Even Brasilians go all misty eyed upon mention of this region which is thirty hours by road north easterly or a three hour flight.

Back in Sao Paulo, Bahian Ayume played me this music video by Salvadoran superstar Creole. The imagery says it all :-)

 

The City of Salvador

Perhaps it because I’m finally in the swing of my travels, stringing together the lingo, feeling less like a stiff European but there seems SO much to explore here. I’m over-excitedly-whelmed – there are good vibrations on the Baiano breeze – it’s a melange that I looking forward to truffling my snout through.

I Couchsurfed with Luciano and his kind family in Salvador during my first week. Their apartment, a stone’s throw from Praia (beach) de Piata is where I walked the family pug and ran across the sand into the sea.

Formerly known as: São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos meaning City of the Holy Saviour of the Bay of all Saints this historic hotpot of a cidade was the first colonial capital of Brasil and the city is one of the oldest in the New World (founded in 1549 by Portuguese settlers). It was also the first slave market on the continent, with slaves arriving to work on the sugar plantations from Angola, Benin, Nigeria.

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Mosaic is also everywhere here. And graffitti. All in all: a visual feast.

 

‘Futebol’

The beach is buzzing early in the morning when local people are there enjoying the cool air. Men and boys play football right up and down the beach. The ball bounces towards the sea, they tackle in the waves. Some teams are more ’official’/organised that others with coloured bibs.

Lots of beach dogs, laying spread eagle or randomly barking. Their seem to hang out with the fishermen who, like others live on the beach as far as I can tell. Simple homes can be seen in amongst some of the ‘coqueiros’ (palm trees). I’m reminded of the equivalent fishermen huts on the Black Shore in Southwold, Suffolk where I’ve wandered since childhood.

Discovering Pelourinho and Sao Antonio

I take the bus to the Centro Historico and meet Monika in Pelourinho. It’s a happy coincidence that we’re both in Salvador at the same time. We worked together in Rio and became firm friends.

And oh—oh—OH! —this is a stunning place. I feel as though I’m suddenly in renaissance Europe,…..Italy or Portugal. This is one of the best preserved old towns in Brasil and it really does take your breath away.

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Decorative features at every turn and a sweet shop palette of colour to boot. Is this place real?!

The name Pelourinho meaning Pillory, comes from the central whipping post “where slaves received punishment for various infractions, as well as for disciplinary purposes” (- Wikipedia). Crikey, this place is STEEPED in history and poignancy. It’s both an awe inspiring and thought provoking place to be.

Monika and I wander the cobbled streets through this neighbourhood on to the sleepier more residential yet equally colourful Sao Antonio. Sipping a couple of 4R$ (£1) cans of Schin beer the two of us perch in a Praca outside an old church with children playing and local families relaxing all around. Dreamy!

Salvador criancas 3

Salvador criancas

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Salvador edificio antigo4   IMG_3192

 

“The Hills are Alive!” – Getting lost in Chapada Diamantina

A happy twist of Fate

After a failed hitch hiking attempt from Arembepe, Monika and I bought the last two seats on a late bus to Lencois. We were on a mission to get to the big green spaces of Chapada Diamantina, one of Brasil’s national parks.

Feeling gun-ho and on very low budgets we were heading out into the night on this seven hour journey with no accommodation arranged for our arrival. Well, in this climate, a park bench could always be an option.

In spite of our gaul, we began chatting to Samuel, our neighbour on the bus who promptly offered us a place to stay.

Jungle flora - One of many Morra

‘Diamantina’ refers to diamond mining here during the mid 19th century – One of many Morros – Jungle cactus family flora.

And……..?!

…..Sam turned out to be the most amazing and wonderful person!

We alighted with him in Palmerias – a sleepy town, exactly like that from a classic Western film. He fired up his safari style Land Rover Defender and the three of us went speeding off. —–As fast as you can along the very bumpy red dirt track—- into the starry night to Capao.

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A Brasilian one horse town with buildings dating from the late 1800s. I kept imagining life back then…how the locals might’ve have dressed, exchanged daily conversation, slang, gossip, comings and goings….

The Secret Communidade of Capao

The next morning we awoke cradled in Sam’s jungle dwelling surrounded by bush and mountains. The smell of locally grown coffee, pina fruit and warm buttered ‘integral’ bread rolls wafted up to our mezzanine level.

Sam sleeps in a big hammock on the ground floor.

After ‘café do manha’ we ventured through the labyrintine tracks, lined with abundant green foliage and hibiscus flowers to a nearby waterfall. We swan starkers, dozed in the sunshine and drank from the fast flowing streams we passed….

Blossom and colour everywhere.

Blossom and colour everywhere.

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All of this following a previous day of sketchy plans and a chance meeting. Hurrah for Magic! Serendipity/ Coincidence/ Intuition/ Care-less-free-ness!

Over the two weeks that followed Monika and I had the most idyllic time getting to know Capao: a very small town with an alternative vibrant community of families, a local circus, lots of vegetarian food, random horses in the street.

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The local Moto Taxi point, school gates and circus. ‘Criancinhas’ = Small children.

In search of Aguas Claras e Morro Tabor

This is trekking territory and most days we had a destination cashoeira (waterfall) in mind. We got to know Steffa, another solo backpacker from Hawaii. The three of us went camping out into the wilderness.

Here are some words from my notebook:-

“Red dirt tracks, motorbikes, trucks, dust clouds….turned into insects, cicadas, wild flora, cactus, pink rock, sloping green hills and mountains.

We reach Aguas Claras and pitch up.

Enormous bats come out at night where we camp; the sound of frogs calling to each other throughout the night is like a relentless and eventually relaxing car alarm.

The next day – dappled light and shadow over the land. It’s only us – there’s no one else in sight. No alien sounds. We climb the mountain, skipping up like mountain goats initially. Then scramble.”

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Steffa, Monika and I, some big country to explore and ‘Space flowers’ with white bobble blossom, very sci-fi to us and once endangered.

“I wonder how many other feet have trodden on these boulders, stones, wedged their fore feet into the nooks between plants and rocks?

Small universes exist at every level, nestled into the mountainside. Like a favela and skyscraper of nature. Spiderwebs span space between rocks: imagine being a spider living here – looking out each morning on this panorama?!

We continue to climb…figuring out our way as we clamber and hug the mountainside.—- – looking for hand holds and gaps for toes to pull ourselves up. You look back over your shoulder and see the drop – the space – the beauty!”

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Gringas/ Hobbits on the uncertain path to Mordor….er-hum!…I mean: Morro Tabor.

“As we reach the top the terrain flattens. ‘chapada’=plateau: a wonderful Eden up here! Lots of tropical plants, like a garden, lush and green but succulent-like too, prickily.

I ponder —–these plants have all been born here and reproduce, -up here-, away from the towns and cities, away from people…..growing, evolving, with their insect companions….this world, one that doesn’t need the help or attention of anyone or anything…..enjoying and feeding from the daily sunshine, rain, wind…..

And the insects, flying here and there amongst this plant kingdom and then off the edge of this magnificent peak, dipping in and out of the ‘villages’ on the side of this huge entity.”

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Half way up the magnificent Morro Tabor. As big hilly lumps fare this one was a beauty.

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A Space flower up close!

A Little Town called Lencois

Monika and I camped in a mango orchard in Lencois over a long weekend. This sounds quite charming but mango trees are vast in size and the swollen fruit would fall at random from branches on high with a loud *thunk!* on the ground. We both escaped ‘death by mango’ unscathed.

The town was gorgeous. Small enough to be relaxing and big enough to have a buzz of activity. Old buildings, cobbled streets – unassuming – humble – the gateway to more of Chapadaaaaaaaa.

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Home in a Mango Orchard.

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. Banks of the river, Lencois.

“Went for a hike to a waterfall and got waylaid in a kind of heaven: a lunar landscape of pink rock and several rock pools of orange water. The water is apparently full of iron hence the colour.

Families hang out, bathe and wash their clothes, The rocks are strewn with brightly coloured clothing, all smacked, stretched, clean and spread out in the sun to dry – like patchwork, big colourful squares glued to the contours of the rocky terrain.”

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Laundry day by the river.

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These women had no idea how pretty the results of their labour looked to us.

“Such a relaxed intimate place, we decide to stay and wallow too.

Warm sun, a cloudy sky….an aeroplane streaks across the sky in the far distance; it looks like a shooting star – ‘Estrela Cadente’. Children yelp and call….play…and easy adventure…jumping in and out of the cool golden water. Like mermaid people: “mer-folk.”

This the best playground ever.

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“A young girl has her hair combed, washed, groomed, tugged,…she sits there frowning. Babies are dunked, rubbed and rinsed.

This is a kind of Eden. An effortless paraiso.

Daily routines/chores/tasks are carried out here. To the locals this is not a big deal, but to me this is a special place.

Dogs are washed, soaped up and rinsed. Held still so they don’t run dirty soap suds all over the clean laundry. They rub their heads against the stone afterwards, to find a new natural scent.

Large reptilian spiders cling spread eagle on the edge of the rock near the water’s edge, soaking up the sun’s warmth – recharging, like eight legged batteries. They are pink brown in colour, well evolved in this landscape – gecko-like with a furry brown body; their black eyes glisten like caviar baubles, *alert* . I am fascinated.

Earlier in the day we see two bright green parrots calling as they chase across the sky. They are a happy surprise to us. There is beauty everywhere.

Like a Turkish bath from another century – a scene from a classical painting – and yet this is Bahia…on the banks of the river in a small sleepy town in 21st century Brasil.”

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Dancing in the Hills of Chapada Diamantina

I travelled to deepest darkest Capao with my Slavic hitch hiking compadre Monika.

Our host Sam sings to us one night and plays both the guitar and the accordion (not at the same time, that would be clever ….and strange).

We talk spiritual and philosophical matters, shamanism, animism and he tells about his experiences of taking the jungle plant Ayahuasca. The mind expanding properties of this natural trip allow you to understand the universe and all it’s mysteries.

Sam wrote Tamarindo, an ode to Ayahuasca and his visions. It’s a catchy number and I dance to it on tea breaks mid-trek. Rough terrain jiggery reminded me of John Cleese’ Ministry of Silly Walks; it was hard to maintain any balance!

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Clumsy comedy.

New ideas about Shamanism inspire me to waft around butterfly styleee with Pablo’s colourful kanga. It’s easy to forget when out in this wilderness that it was once populated by Indigeonous people. And that the forest may have been full of meaning for them, a reverence held – spirits, seasons, symbols.

Xicrin tribe Brazil

A Xikrin girl. This may be the ritual dress for the Hummingbird Ceremony.

Tamarindo A Bitter Fruit – Fulano de Tao

O suco de tamarindo  /The juice of tamarindo

Que eu tava com a colher bulindo  /That I was with touching with a spoon

Nunca me deu azedo  /Never felt so bitter to me

Nunca me deu prazer do seu amor  /Never felt the pleasure of your love

A flor que tava se abrindo  /The flower that was opening

Num cacto espinho surgindo  /A cactus spike emerging

Nunca feriu meu dedo  /Never wounded my finger

Nunca me fez arder do seu calor  /Never made me burn by your love

De fato eu subi montanhas  /In fact I climbed mountains

E montes eu descobri sobre voce  /And hills I discovered about you

Agora to sozinho aqui no meu canto  /Now i`m here alone in my corner

Com toda a certeza que nenhum encanto  /With sure that no charm

Vai desaparecer com tudo que eu vivi  /Will disappear with all that I lived

Mesmo sabendo que voce nao volta pra mim  /Even knowing that you will not return to me

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Xikrin-Kayoo man.

Voguing in a hole Lencois river portrait

An East Anglian woman – Voguing in a hole.

A Pit Stop in Sao Paulo

“Whoosh! I’ve just left Sao Paulo and am reflecting on what a wonderful time I had there. Already, I’m planning my return” – Domingo 20 Abril

My very first impressions were ace: I passed through the city on my way to the Hopaholics Lindy hop dance camp back in February. That evening three skateboarders came whizzing down a main road against the flow of busy downtown traffic. How dashing – how daring! My teenage ninja heros!

Some Sao Paulo graffiti.

Some Sao Paulo graffiti.

My impressions on returning to Sao Paulo after Rio were not so good: oh crikey, what an UGLY place! Grey concrete high rises, scruffy graffiti and lots of street poverty. Last time I’d seen Sao Paulo at night and I think swooning over guerilla skateboarders had given me rose-tinted ‘oculos’.

However, over the mere two weeks that I spent within one of Planet Earth’s biggest urban jungles I began to glimpse something bright beyond the grey. Social slands of ´respite, light and delight’. Gem-like hives of rich creative activity that I devoured.

Let me tell you how it happened…..

Sweet graffiti of an African Mary.

Sweet graffiti Virgin Mary by the bus stop in Butanta.

 

Couchsurfing and Contemporary Dance  

Tercafeira 8 – I decided to get into the swing of Couchsurfing following Soyeon’s recommendation and my first hosts Amanda and Ayume couldn’t have been better.

Amanda had just returned home from a Contemporary dance class. Ooooh, interesting! We compared our experiences of flinging our bodies about, all in the name of creative freedom and self expression.

The following day Ayume and I cycled to the USP campus nearby. She´s a film student there and was still buzzing following a recent masterclass with Jean Pierre Jeunet, the maker of Amelie! We chattered about our favourite films as we pedalled around this clean organised green space full of handsome contemporary buildings. For a moment I felt that I was back at the equally zen UEA campus in Norwich, a favourite haunt of mine.

Needless to say: I love university campuses!

Varying banners of Political Protest at the cantina - USP Campus, Sao Paulo.

A political hoe down at the cantina – USP Campus, Sao Paulo.

That evening we took the Metro to Santa Cecilia to meet some of Ayume’s pals.

We sipped the most sour wine we’d ever tasted! but their company was fabulous: Luis, an actor and rising star, Fernanda a film maker of dance and Andre, a contemporary dancer who tours the globe. By the end of the night I felt thoroughly inspired.

They too seemed admiring of the attitude of a gal who leaves the comfort of home for a backpacking adventure with no set plan.

Performances at Pinacoteca 

Sabado 12 – On to the weekend and Amanda and I ambled over to Pinacoteca, one of the best public art galleries in the city. There, a cool installation of ceramic objects by Laertes Ramos filled the red brick atrium space. Wow, it was beautiful! and I couldn’t help but think what an excellent name Laertes is too :-)

Bunker - Laertes Ramos

Casamata (Bunker) – Laertes Ramos

The beautiful atrium space at Pinacoteca, Sao Paulo,

Upstairs we found work by Tino Sehgal in the form of two dancers, a singer and an actor who animated the historic collection through roaming performance and reciting the words of the artist, ‘This is Propaganda’. As my interest in performance grows ever stronger this piece of work was a happy discovery.

Voodoo Hopping at Teatro Oficina

That night I went to meet Fernanda at the infamous Teatro Oficina. Tonight was a Voodoo Hop party and I was told to expect a Dionysian fiesta.

Teatro Oficina is uber avant-garde; their performances last several hours, include plenty of nudity, real sex and orgies, defecating on stage, blood, vomit……the whole shebbang! I couldn’t help but feel curious….

A bunch of fellows

A strange ginger Brasilian man I met in the Banhero Feminino – Fellow party-goers including a ‘Gringa’ from Mumbai, India – Projections inside the club.

On entering there was a barefoot policy so I left my shoes in the cloakroom. The interior was catherdral-like: clad with a tall industrial scaffold structure from which bodies writhed, part gymnast/part pole dancers. Behind a vast glass wall was a huge tropical garden. Andy Warhol’s Factory came to mind: communal, free, experimental.

I arrived late so missed the naked Flamenco dancer and other crazy business but played with a ‘bambole’ (hula hoop), watched lots of clothed love-making with a degree of English awkwardness and saw a Condomble infused performance that made me smile.

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Condomble rhythms and men dressed as Wombles wearing hairpieces of Loofers(!) A refreshingly barmy performance at Teatro Oficina.

 

Skateboarders at the Museu Afro Brasil

Domingo 13 – A Manchester friend put me in touch with his pal Lowri Evans. She’s a performance artist living between England and Sao Paulo. We met on Paulista last week and I quickly decided that she was one of the sincerely warmest people I’d met in a long time.

Lowri has been working on a year long performance project about the life and letters of social activist Roza Luxemburg with Sao Paulo based artists. Her Brasilian partner Rodolfo is also that way inclined as a founding member of alternative theatre company Grupo XIX.

Lowri Evans :-)

Lowri Evans :-)

I bobbed over to the gigante Parque do Ibirapuera and went to the Museu Afro Brasil with Lowri, Rodolfo and another Inglesa, Alison. The museum is brilliant, go if you’re ever in Sao Paulo!

Afterwards, I filmed the resident skateboarders. They totally enhance the Niemeyer designed walk way that leads from the museum to the park.

 

David Bowie Is…..Cool

Tercafeira 15 – A V&A show I missed in London has toured to Sao Paulo: David Bowie Is. I caught it at the Museu Da Imagem e Do Som (Museum of Moving Image & Sound) before it closed on 24th April. As a lover of  fashion, alter egos and gender blending I left the show totally in love with this humble English creature (who turned into a butterfly).

The man sporting some wonderful heeled boots and high waisted trousers. Swoooon!

The man sporting some wonderful heeled boots and high waisted trousers. Swoooon!

Beautiful brilliant Bowie baby!

Beautiful brilliant Bowie baby!….on English TV show, Tops of the Pops.

 

Opening performance of ROZA

Sextafeira 18 – Following a week of rehearsals Lowri’s ROZA ‘espectaculo’ was opening that night. I was really excited to see it having heard snippets from behind the scenes.

This multi-layered multimedia masterpiece began with an intro by the Roza Band before launching into an improvised script, using an innovative stage arrangement, projections, film, theatre, !!passion!! (as was Roza Luxemburg’s character), and more music.

I sat there and like a sponge absorbed it all until full, not understanding all the Portuguese bits but enjoying this creative bubbling brew nevertheless. It was an incredible creation.

ROZA - Lowri Evans, Martha Kiss Perone & Lucia Bronstein. Photos by Marilia Scharlach.

ROZA – Lowri Evans, Martha Kiss Perone & Lucia Bronstein.
Photos by Marilia Scharlach.

After the show Lowri and I jabbered in our relaxed English tongue for a few moments before I met Celso a theatre director from Brasilia, Rita a contemporary dancer from Portgual, Edson drummer of the Roza Band and successful experimental musician along with many more friendly interesting folk.

GRUA (Gentlemen of the Street) Performance

Qunitafeira 17 – I caught a free performance by GRUA at old fashioned shopping centre Galeria Olido. Yet more inspiration. Performance and dance seems to ooze out the bricks of this city!

On this ocassion they combined Contemporary dance with Parkour and Capoeira and this, along with their gentlemanly attire woo-ed me! This is an earlier piece of work by the chaps.

 

Dancing on the Streets

Sextafeira 18 e Sabado 19 – After almost two weeks in Sao Paulo and many conversations and thoughts about favourite city spots I was ready to take to the streets and dance. And so was Adriana, my second generously spirited CS host.

We had lots of fun in the hot Sao Paulo sunshine. Something life affirming happens when passers-by are moved by the moment and dance along with me. Non-verbal communication: ” hello friend!”

Our final spot was Beco do Batman in Vila Madalena. It’s a back street alley covered plastered in graffiti and a dreamy location.

My favourite graffiti all in Beco de Batman.

My favourite graffiti wall down Beco do Batman/ Batman Alley.

 

Rockabilly for Desert :-)

Early hours, Domingo 20 – It was my last night in Sao Paulo and despite having tired ‘corpos’ we couldn’t resist a bop at rockabilly club The Clock. This was just the ticket.

‘Muito cansado!’ became ‘muito animado!’ as soon as I heard that familiar Little Richard tune ‘Lucille’ booming from behind the entrance door. Something otherworldly came over me and I lept onto the dance floor almost immediately and bopped my socks off.

'BOP' til you DROP!

Dancing on the streets of Sao Paulo – Version 2

 

For the full story see my last post and Version 1 of my Sao Paulo jig to ‘Ask’ by The Smiths.

Morrissey expresses the experience of Shyness better than I can. It’s through Lindy hop that I jumped this social hurdle; bounding around a foreign cityscape is all part of exorcising my sweet yet sometimes debilitating demon.

The Smiths Collage

Left – extremely cool image from: notjustanothergraphicdesignblog.com & Right – the original 7″ single artwork (Raoul, is this right?!)

 

Dancing on the streets of Sao Paulo – Version 1

(Sao Paulo locations: Viaduto Santa Ifigenia, Rua da Consolacao, Praca ‘Rosa’ Roosevelt)

During my short stay in Sao Paulo I buddied up with Adriana. She lives in uber-central Republica in a cool 1940s apartment that’s barely changed since that era. We both admire vintage flavour.

I was her Couchsurf guest and boy, what a wonderful host she was. She teaches film and script writing at the local universade. The university is in the Japanese community quarter, Liberade.

The Sao Paulo sunshine was shining on me as Adriana agreed to be my camera woman for 2 days. The pair of us sauntered around the city talking over our favourite locations – her as a local and me as a visitor with my first impressions.

Adriana and me hanging about the city.

Adriana and me hanging about the city.

At the end of Sabado, although completely pooped we dragged our sorry bodies out into the night and bopped until the early hours at The Clock Rockabilly Club. I had an ball!

The Sao Paulo cityscape although gritty and tough was a feast for the imagination and we took loads of footage!  So I’ve edited this wedge into 2 versions. Version 1 is above – version 2 is on it’s way!

The song – ‘Ask’, The Smiths, 1986

The Smiths are amazing – end of story. The melodies uplifting and the lyrics tell many a witty tale. This song is one of my favourites. The lyrics about Shyness resonated with me. As I pranced about, feeling awkward initially, receiving puzzled glances I felt that Morrissey was spurring me on!  :-)

Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You’d like to

Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You’d like to

So, if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
Ask me – I won’t say ‘no’ – how could I?

Coyness is nice, and
Coyness can stop you
From saying all the things in
Life you’d like to

So, if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
Ask me – I won’t say ‘no’ – how could I?

Spending warm Summer days indoors
Writing frightening verse
To a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Because if it’s not Love
Then it’s the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb
That will bring us together

Nature is a language – can’t you read?
Nature is a language – can’t you read?

So… Ask me, ask me, ask me

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Because if it’s not Love
Then it’s the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb
That will bring us together

If it’s not Love
Then it’s the Bomb
Then it’s the Bomb
That will bring us together

So…Ask me, ask me, ask me

Ask me, ask me, ask me
Oh, la la la la laaaaaa la…!

Once Upon a Carnaval

Now let me tell you a colourful tale….

On the eve of Carnaval the call of relentless drumming echos all around. I’m staying in Santa Teresa, a maze of cobbled streets perched on a hill overlooking Lapa and Centro. The view from this part of the city is great – helicopters, jumbo jets and birds from the Tijuca park cruise across the panorama of blue sky day in day out.

And, in memory of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a rhythmic cacophony rises up. It’s like you’re being summoned. There’s a great feeling of ritual. Submission. A call to abandon yourself to the season of madness.

Like an enjoyable itch!

Excitable whispers are all around about which bloco? when? where? Now this really does feel like a marathon of sorts. Both locals and traveller friends all exchange advice on how to go the distance during Carnaval so you don’t burn out after 2 days

It’s Thursday night and I pop along to L’Argos des Neves. (literally: Square of the Snows, from the Catholic Maria of the Snows).

LArgo des Neves bloco1

The beautiful unused church at L’Argo des Neves, surrounded by merry makers on the eve of Carnaval week.

LArgo des Neves bloco collage

Left – The ‘bonde’ (tram) rails lead us home with the pretty church a-glow in the background. Right: I loved this woman’s head dress. It was the first of many ambitiously crafted that I was to see.

Friday – ‘Carmelitas’, Santa Teresa

A gang of us make-up, mask-up, dress-up and walk fifteen minutes to Praca Gomez for the Carmelitas bloco. It’s thrilling. The streets are heaving with the colourful joyus rabble. It’s impossible to resist this affectionate wave of energy and camaraderie.

The fews cars daft enough to attempt access down this part of town are covered in jovial bodies. I’m squashed against a VW Beetle (engine running, driver looking pissed off, revving the motor) …by loved up revellers, my Danish, Argentinian and Canadian compadres and I being some of them. All we can do is look at each other and keep repeating the same words: “this is amazing – this is amazing – this is amazing!!!”

Essential pre-bloco warm up exercises!

Essential pre-bloco warm up exercises!


Saturday – ‘Ciel na Terra’ (Heaven on Earth), Santa Teresa

Juan and I agree to rise early and catch another local bloco, Ciel na Terra. We’re there at 8am and the gorged parade is already in full swing as it actually started at 6am.

Okay, so I’m becoming accustomed by now to the Wonder Women, the men dressed as Nurses, Mario Brothers, all round eclectic fancy dress. BUT! then come the huge puppets and banners, floating along above the umpteen people beneath – WOWee!! Trumpets sound, chants are called. My bottom lip begins to quiver, my face rushes with sensation, I start to weep! This is overwhelming and wonderful!

I’m across the globe from my sleepy rural home in ye olde labyrinthine Santa Teresa; it’s early morning and all these people are absolutely fully committed to looking incredible, coming together, finding an instrument and playing it, hearing a rhythm and dancing to it, seeing a face and kissing it.

This IS the pyschedelic storm I anticipated!

Oh, how I love all this pagan wierdness!

Oh, how I love all this pagan wierdness!

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Isn’t she beautiful?!

Never has there been a better reason to get up early and party. This bonanza of colour and delirium was a pleasurable sight for sore eyes.

Never has there been a better reason to get up early and party. This bonanza of colour and delirium was a pleasurable sight for sore eyes.

The banners - the puppets - wonderful!

The banners – the puppets – wonderful!

'Luta Bonde' - Stolen tram. By the time I arrived in Rio the quaint old yellow tram of Santa Teresa has been pulled out of action as a result of safety issues. Signs of protest against this decision are all around the neighbourhood. It's presence is missed and the World Cup is held partly to blame for it's neglect.

‘Bonde Luta’ – Tram Stolen. By the time I arrived in Rio the quaint old yellow tram of Santa Teresa has been pulled out of action as a result of safety issues. Signs of protest against this decision are all around the neighbourhood. It’s presence is missed and the World Cup is held partly to blame for it’s neglect.


Sunday – ‘Boilata’, Praca XV and Praca Tridantes

The jaded bunch.

The jaded bunch.

Word on the street is that the hoe-down at Praca XV is gonna be good today.

A bunch of us head down and catch the last of it. We perk ourselves up with salgados and acai to the terrific sound of drums around us.

I bump into Marisa and leave my hungover friends to go with her to Praca Tridadentes where another bloco is underway.

The walk across this central business district is an event in itself. There are few cars around, lone skyscrapers stand. Crazed packs of Carnavalistas occupy the streets. I’m reminded of one of my favourite zombie films ‘28 Days Later’ where London is deserted.

The universal ´we´ are all walking in the same direction teasing, chasing, playing with each other, marching on to the next sound cloud somewhere in the distance.

Vendors selling popcorn, hotdogs, coconut water are here and there. Stood by their barrows, they too are happy!

The Afrika Folk Pop dancers are busting out some great moves. I’ve seen them around the city in the weeks leading up to this, busking around the city.

Afrika Folk Pop Dancers – near Praca Tiradentes, Rio de Janeiro from Dusty Sioux on Vimeo.

The quiet yet crazed streets of central Rio.

The quiet yet crazed streets of central Rio.

Praca Tirandentes Collage

A man who could do the splits – a plump wonder woman – smiley girls in wigs – a VERY rude priest! – pink ladyboys – and some excellent drag.

More beauty: a galant indian.

More beauty: a gallant pink indian.

Lovely legs rest on a taxi.

Lovely legs rest on a taxi.

-----H-A-P-P-Y-----!!!

—–H-A-P-P-Y—–!!!

Grand building1

A man wearing a camel - Happy Chappy - Pirates at the bus station.

A man wearing a camel – Happy Chappy – Pirates at the bus station.

Monday – ‘Sargento Pimenta’ (Sergeant Peppers), Parque do Flamengo

There’s a bloco at Flamengo today. The theme: Sargento Pimenta/ Sergeant Peppers, a samba band playing the Beatles. I have reservations about such a combination: Sambarised Beatlemania?!

The bus journey there is colourful. The holiday vibe is so normal now – the whole city is at the mercy of Carnaval! I’m in love with this.

Parque Flamengo is expansive. Peter, Juan and I join the crowds walking along. You can´t hear the music yet but the magnetic pull of the bloco draws us in to worship.

Ah-ha! As we get closer the excitable samba bateria drums call out, “…You got to admit it’s getting better, it’s getting better aaaaalllll the time….” is sounding really bloody good with the added dimension of this bossy rhythm! Oh heck! I know the words! I spent many a day as a teen gobbling my way through the Beatles back catalogue, whilst absorbed in art homework – I know ALL the words – hurrah! No more attempting to mime my though a marchinha.

Despite warnings of a potential camera snatching I clutch my prized DSLR baby and snap away in the heaving crowd. More colour – more energy – more enthusiasm – with a sassy Beatles soundtrack. YES – I think this works! 

 

Tuesday – Final official Carnaval day 

……and I wake up feeling sick. Aching body, sore throat, headache. I stay in bed and wonder if this has all been a dream. I prop myself up with herbal tea and porridge and sleep and sleep and sleep.

To conclude? it’s been brilliant fun. I’m already planning my return and a more ambitous costume for next year.

Hound dog!

Hound dog!

Parque do Flamengo.

Parque do Flamengo.

Cheeeesey grin.

Cheeeesey grin.

------Y-E-A-H-------!!!!

——Y-E-A-H——-!!!!

Cupid's Corner - Misleading Vodka Smoothies - Prisoners -

Cupid’s Corner – Misleading Vodka Smoothies – Prisoners – Carnaval Staffy – Bunny Bears.

And yes, more beauty still....

And yes, more beauty still….

Dining