With just over a month left before Carnival, the samba schools are getting into the groove with twice-weekly practices in preparation for the main event – a 14-contestant competition of beads, beats, and booty-shaking to see whose themed samba presentation tops ’em all.
Even if it’s not as well-attended, São Paulo’s got a two-day parade event as big and flashy as Rio’s, and since 2005, I’ve been Vai-Vai for life. But last year, Acadêmicos do Tucuruvi grabbed my attention with a brash, colorful, poignant paean to the migrant workers of Northeastern Brazil who come to the city by the thousands each year to escape drought and poverty. These Northeasterners are more often than not black and brown, with traditions derived more wholly from the African and indigenous elements of Brazilian culture than those of any other region in the country, and they’re subjected to discrimination and even physical violence from more than a few locals who ignorantly stake claims to the place as if their grandparents hadn’t come here to escape drought and poverty in Italy, Spain, or Portugal. I loved the lyrics and the melody of the samba, and was hyped that they snagged second place (after Vai-Vai, of course), though I wouldn’t have been disappointed in the least if they had won.
Last Friday, I stopped by the ole HQ in Tucuruvi to check out this year’s theme: “O Esplendor da África no Reino da Folia” (very loosely translated as “The Splendor of Africa in the Realm of Revelry”).
The lyrics start off:
Teu filho, Oh Mãe África, (Your son, Oh Mother Africa)
Faz festa pra te exaltar (Celebrates to exalt you)
Herdeiro eu sou, da batida do tambor! (Heir, I am, to the beat of the drum!)
Amen and amen.