In February 2014 I lucky enough to travel to Rio de Janeiro to take part in Carnaval Transatlantico, a collaborative project with three English Samba groups: Ziriguidum (Bristol), Nova Guarda (Birmingham) and Toque Tambor (Hitchin). The project was directed by JP Courtney who was assisted by Paul Baxter of http://www.sambasupplies.com
The project saw 45 English Samba players travel to Rio to perform as an official Bloco (street carnival group). The Bloco played four gigs during their stay in Rio in famous venues such as Circo Voador, Fundição Progresso, Carioca da Gema and Os Arcos da Lapa. The main event was a parade in Lapa, a district with lots of bars and clubs in Central Rio, with Fabio Allman from Carnival group Monobloco.
My favourite gig we did before the parade was the gig in Carioca da Gema, having been there in 2008 to watch bands it was a real pleasure to return as a performing musician. The lineup was Fabio Allman (vox), Pepe Barcellos (Guitar), Shilon (Cavaquinho), JP Courtney (Vox and percussion), Sam Tompkins (percussion), Paul Baxter (Percussion) and myself playing percussion as well. We played a mixture of traditional Sambas with more modern music including covers of Bob Marley, Daft Punk and Ben Harper.
As well as performing, myself and a few other individuals went to The British School, Rio de Janeiro, to teach a Samba workshop. Never in my life did I imagine I would end up in a Brazilian school teaching Samba to Brazilian children! It went down a storm! We ran a session with them in their classroom before the rest of Carnaval Transatlantico arrived to deliver a performance where the young people joined in with us.
The 22nd of February was the day of the big parade (desfile) in front of the historic Arches of Lapa. After years of practising in the UK, it was finally our chance to perform our music in front of a huge audience of Brazilians! Once again we performed with Fabio Allman of Monobloco supported by Pepe and Shilon on Guitar and Cavaquinho. The performance was a great success – with many Brazilians coming up and commenting on how pleased they were to see English people playing their music so well. The smiles in this photo are testament to just how well our performance went! Big thanks to JP Courtney and Cristina Couri for all their work in organising this event!
Throughout our time in Rio, we made several appearances in the local newspapers and even the national news – check out this link (in portuguese!)
Along with all of this playing and rehearsing, we still managed to fit in multiple shopping trips buying drums, visits to several Samba schools across the city, days at the beach, exploring the city and the essential cable car trip up to Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar). It was my third time in Rio, but my first trip up there. The view is fantastic!!! I still have not yet gone up Cristo Redemptor, that will have to wait til next time (I’m such a rubbish tourist!). I will always have a soft spot for Rio as it was the first City I ever visited in Brazil. If you have never been to Brazil I cannot recommend it highly enough!!!
I’ll leave you with this photo of the Cidade Maravilhosa at sunset from atop Sugar Loaf!