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The world’s biggest carnival

The carnival in Rio de Janeiro is renowned the world over. This huge, exuberant spectacle begins every year on the Friday after Easter. For five days carnival unites millions of Brazilians and visitors who come from every corner of the earth to Rio especially for this event. The streets are alive with music, dance and colourful parades.

There are various stories that explain the origins of carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The most conventional is that it arose from the Portuguese Spring festival Entrudo, a lively street party in which people run around in masks hurling water, mud and citrus fruits at each other. In the 16th century the Portuguese colonists brought the event with them to Brazil, where it slowly morphed into the modern carnival. The first carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro comparable to those we know today began in the 18th century, when members of the upper class took to the streets in lavish costumes.

Music and dance

Music plays an important role during carnival. Dancers lead the exuberant parades to the rhythms of samba. This style of music originates in the immigrant community that came to Rio at the end of the 19th century. The blossoming of the coffee industry and the abolition of slavery led to huge migrations. Many (former) slaves from the state of Bahia settled in Rio de Janeiro bringing their local dances, music and customs with them. Later, the revellers added various colourful elements such as parade floats and exotic costumes to the carnival mix.

The street bands of Rio

Every district of Rio has its favourite street band(s). The city boasts more than three hundred bands and the number grows every year. Each music bloco or group is represented by samba musicians and dancers performing to music they have composed themselves and with their own choreography. During carnival they always play at fixed locations around the city. The most famous bands from Rio de Janeiro are Cordão do Bola Preta, a traditional group that performs in the city centre, and Banda de Ipanema, which puts on its show in the streets of the Ipanema district.

Parade in the Sambadrome

The highpoint of carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the parade in the Sambódromo, a stadium built especially for this purpose. For months in advance, the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro rehearse for an event that numbers between 2500 and 5000 participants. Each school has its own theme that is elaborated upon with exotic costumes. A jury awards points to the parades that begin in the evening and go on until early morning. Eventually, the jury chooses the most beautiful float and crowns a samba queen for the year.

Tickets for this spectacle are for sale, but act fast as the event sells out extremely quickly.

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