Bahian Carnival

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Circuit Barra-Ondina, the most famous circuit of Brazil where attractions sing above the trio elétrico in the city of Salvador, Bahia

Bahian Carnival (Portuguese: Carnaval) is a popular street event in the Brazilian state of Bahia, mainly in its capital, Salvador. It began to evolve from the gap between social classes - street carnaval vs. private clubs - resulting in an inversion of the social order, a utopic celebration of equality in which the social divide is temporarily suspended.[1] It's known as the biggest popular party of the world.

Festival's proportions[edit]

Carnival circuit of the city of Salvador.

Two million people participate in the annual festivities that last nearly a week, immersing themselves in music and dance. During sixteen hours a day Brazilian popular culture reaches its maximum expression and Salvador’s local economy gets a boost of unequivocal proportions.


In 1950, Adolfo Dodô Nascimento and Osmar Álvares Macêdo, better known as Dodô and Osmar created the Fobica, an open float adapted for musical presentations, and the 'trio elétrico was born. By 1952, the term trio elétrico had become generic, in reference to a truck or bus carrying musicians around during Bahian carnival. In 1969, Caetano Veloso’s song, Atrás do trio-elétrico (Behind the trio-elétrico) popularized the Trio Elétrico sound nationwide. Today, the presence of Trio Elétrico trucks is one of the main attractions of the Carnaval da Bahia.

Carnaval blocos[edit]

Main article: Blocos

Meanwhile, the carnaval blocos began to evolve and branch out into various currents of aesthetic, musical, and even religious manifestations. While the afoxés, whose members brought their Afro-Brazilian religious cosmology to the Caranaval procession by maintaining their African roots with the puxada do ijexá (a rhythm played in honor of the orixás or Afro-Brazilian deities), the flourishing middle class blocos mostly relied on carnaval music styled on Rio de Janeiro’s samba-enrredos.

Then the Afro-blocos emerged with an aesthetical proposal extrapolated from the Indian blocos, introducing some fundamental innovations in the process: parades revolved around themes and music was tailored to fit the occasion. During this phase, Bahia’s street carnaval was infused with the glamour and elitism propagated by carnaval clubs, initiating a slight reversal of the egalitarian ideal.

Bahian carnival musicians[edit]

With the emergence of new Bahian talent who continued to popularize regional rhythms, Carnaval became more of an organized affair though it somehow retained its informality and contagious spontaneity. The success of Luiz Caldas, Sara Jane, and Chiclete com Banana, along with the evolution of Ilê Aiyê and the emergence of Olodum played a part in transforming Salvador’s Carnaval into the biggest, longest, most itinerant open air show in the world. The upper and middle classes finally succumbed to the Carnaval–inspired ideal of racial harmony and by the end of the 80s the pre-Lent celebration entered a process of irreversible debauchery. Street carnaval came to represent the collective identity of Bahian Carnaval.

By the start of a new decade, Bahia’s Carnaval became an institutionalized talent factory. The success of precursors such as Luis Caldas, Chiclete com Banana, Ilê-Aiyê, Margareth Menezes, and Olodum heralded the convergence of Carnaval and commercial music. Slowly the northeastern and national music markets began to open.

Daniela Mercury[edit]

Between 1992 and 1993 Bahian Carnaval became the stage for the greatest success in Brazil’s musical landscape yet: Daniela Mercury landed the number one spot in radio stations throughout Brazil with her samba-reggae hit O Canto da Cidade. Her show broke public attendance records from Oiapoque to Chuí and she became the first exponent of the new Bahian sound to have a television special on her musical career transmitted on a national station, Rede Globo. Mercury’s stunning success radically tore down the preconceptions and barriers that Brazil’s musical epicenters had imposed on Bahian music with origins entrenched in carnaval.

Ironically, Mercury’s huge success on a national scale transformed her into Bahian Carnaval’s main artist. She reached that distinction long after having conquered a niche in Bahia and having participated in many carnavals.


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