If you have had the pleasure of growing up amongst Rio’s verdant hilltops and multiple beaches, a true ‘Carioca da Gema’, chances are you will know exactly where you are heading this Carnival. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, the multitude of options can seem a little daunting. With 7 years experience on the ground, the Dehouche team have had their fair share of practice and our Carnival skills are now honed to a fine art: from where to sit at the sambodromo, to the best blocos and which bar serves a great cocktail drinks amongst the madness, Dehouche has got it covered for our clients when it comes to the inside track. Here we give you our run down of this year’s best bloco’s- Essential reading for any Rio Carnival go-er.
Many of the most traditional blocos take place in Rio’s historic centre – the heartland of samba – and often have colourful stories behind them. The Carmelitas which goes twice every year, was founded in honour of a nun who, so the legend goes, jumped over the walls of the Carmelite Convent in Santa Teresa to join in the carnaval. The second parade pays tribute to her sneaking back in again without getting caught! Meet: Ladeira de Santa Teresa on the corner of Dias de Barros, Friday 1pm & Tuesday 8am. Suggested fancy dress: Nun (especially the men)
Banda de Ipanema
One of the oldest Zona Sul blocos, Banda de Ipanema was founded under the military dictatorship at the beginning of the Bossa Nova era by a group of Ipanema musicians and bohemians – with (in a very Brazilian way) a background of political protest and complete irreverence. As an example, the poet Albino Pinheiro who found the bloco, adopted the motto “Yohelsman Crisbelles” for the bloco, which the military authorities took as a coded criticism of the regime. In fact, it’s a completely meaningless phrase which he had heard a mad preacher shouting in the Central do Brasil train station (for those who want the whole story, said preacher claimed it was the name of the angel who would announce the coming of the last judgement). Because of its colourful history uniting artists and musicians over the decades it was recently declared an official part of Brazil’s “cultural heritage” by the government. These days, it’s most famous for its outrageous drag queens who lead the party in towering high heels, bright dresses and fruit bowl headpieces. This tradition, as with much of carnival, had nothing to do with the founding of the bloco but they just turned up one year spontaneously and have now become the defining feature of the parade. Meet: General Osorio, Ipanema, Saturday 6pm, Tuesday 6pm. Suggested fancy dress: Widow Twanky.
Afroreggae, along with Monobloco, is one of the most popular of the blocos which have arisen in the last decade, attracting huge crowds to Ipanema to dance to their infectious samba-reggae rhythms. The group was originally founded by a charity established in 1993 after the infamous Vigario Geral massacre where 21 people were killed in the Vigario Geral favela. Afroreggae was set up as a cultural charity promoting art, music and theatre in the community. The group performs throughout the year all over the country and internationally, but are most famous for the carnaval bloco – a real feel good parade with catchy MPB songs put to samba-reggae drumming. Meet: Posto 8 Ipanema, Monday 5pm. Suggested fancy dress: Zulu Warrior
Cordao da Bola Preta
This is Rio’s oldest bloco dating back to 1918, and the only one in the city with an official head quarters in Lapa hosting music events throughout the year. Many consider the Bola Preta bloco to mark the official beginning of Carnival each year (although technically Copacabana’s Bip Bip ‘bips’ them to the post on that one kicking off at 00:01 on Saturday…), and it attracts gigantic crowds of all ages to Cinelandia square on Saturday morning, music strictly traditional with samba anthems dating back to the 20s. A great experience if you want to see some of Rio’s most passionate carnaval goers, but be prepared to contend with the masses – in 2010 an estimated 1.5 million (yes million) turned up, many of which dress in white with black spots in homage to the group’s name. Meet: Cinelandia, Saturday 8am. Suggested fancy dress: Dalmatian
Other blocos worth looking out for–
Cordao da Boitata – Sunday 8am, Rua 1 de Marco, Centro: Bloco focused on old traditional sambas (although only founded in 1996), attracts some of the best fancy dress of any of the blocos.
Ceu na Terra – Saturday 8am, Santa Teresa; very friendly (but large) crowd winds its way through the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa, one of the famous trams is even commissioned to make up part of the bloco
Simpatia é Quase Amor – Saturday 3pm, General Osorio: One of the best Ipanema blocos attracting a fun mixed crowd
Azeitona sem Caroço – Friday 8pm, Dias Ferreira. Along with ‘Empurra que pega’ (Saturday 3pm), one of the most popular Leblon blocos with a (relatively) civilized crowd gathering in the chic restaurant street of Dias Ferreira.
Monobloco – Sunday after Carnaval, Rio Branco 7am. If Cordao da Bola Preta marks the official beginning of carnaval, Monobloco has come to mark the official end attracting similar sized crowds to send carnaval off with samba drum versions of MPB classics. Like Afroreggae a band in their own right who tour the world playing concerts.