Holidays in Brazil: The Land of Music
Holidays in Brazil: the Land of Music
Whenever you think of Brazil, certain things spring irresistibly to mind. It might be the iconic image of the Christ the Redeemer statue towering over the beaches of Rio, or perhaps footage of Zico or Romario scoring a perfect goal for Brazil’s national team, the Selecao. But for many people, Brazil isn’t defined by images so much as by sound, and there is no country which provides a more thrilling musical soundtrack to your holiday than Brazil.
Bossa nova was probably the first Brazilian music to achieve worldwide fame when “The Girl from Ipanema” became a smash hit across the globe. The soft, sensuous rhythm became an instant success, and the Rio tourist board can thank their lucky stars that such an iconic song has drawn holiday-makers to Rio’s Ipanema beach ever since. To this day, Ipanema is one of Rio’s most stylish and glamorous districts, with its golden beach, cool nightclubs and top restaurants, and it’s one of the best areas to stay in during a holiday in Rio. Although you might feel that ‘Copacabana’ by Barry Manilow is more famous, you could make the case that the two songs reflect the two districts quite well: Copacabana beach is probably more famous outside of Brazil than Ipanema, but just like the song, it’s a little less stylish as well!
Bossa Nova has its roots in what is probably Brazil’s most famous musical style, Samba. Its roots in turn lie in the traditional African music which was brought to Brazil by the large number of slaves brought from Africa during the 17th and 18th centuries, although over time it has, of course, taken on other influences from European and Amerindian music. Today samba is woven into Brazilian life in the same way as the Beatles are imprinted on British and American kids from childhood, and in fact Samba is officially commemorated every year on the 2nd December on National Samba Day.
The most widely-known samba festival, however, is the annual Rio Carnival, which takes place in February or March every year. This huge celebration attracts literally millions of partygoers and is the largest non-religious festival in the world. Although there are also huge street parties during Carnival, and although there are other carnivals elsewhere with slightly different traditions, the centrepiece of the Rio Carnival are the famous and spectacular parades through Rio’s Sambadrome. This giant parade-ground consists of a central processional ‘aisle’ flanked by huge grandstands and when Carnival comes to town, the stands are packed with eager fans watching their favourite samba schools process through the Sambadrome with their ranks of massed drummers, fabulous costumes and gigantic floats. It’s an amazing spectacle, although it’s certainly not the cheapest time to be planning your holidays in Brazil, as hotel and flight prices are hugely inflated.
Further north in Bahia, the Salvador Carnival is the largest outside of Rio and – although you’ll find plenty of samba here as well – the focus is much more on the Bahian musical style called axé. This traditionally blends Caribbean and Brazilian rhythms, although as its popularity has spread, much of it has become almost indistinguishable from generic pop music – today it’s one of Brazil’s most popular forms, even in the south. Salvador is also home to the traditional Brazilian martial art called capoeira. Fittingly for such a musical country, capoeira is traditionally performed to music: the story goes that because slaves were forbidden to practice any kind of fighting, they passed it off as dancing – which was allowed! There is very little contact involved in capoeira, and in some senses it is more like dancing than fighting, but the moves require incredible strength and power, and watching it you always feel as though it could turn into something violent quite quickly!
Wherever you travel on your holidays in Brazil, you’ll find a multitude of musical styles, and find music entwined in everyday life in a way that just isn’t true in most countries around the world. There aren’t many countries were musicians become cabinet ministers and ambassadors, but then there aren’t many countries like Brazil!
Dan Clarke works for www.therealbrazil.com, specialising in tailor-made holidays in Brazil, including specialist music tours and trips to the Rio and Salvador Carnival.