Tag Archives: carnaval


30 Jan

It’s two weeks before Carnival starts in Barranquilla and already the city is buzzing. Surely only Christmas can rival carnival for the way it takes over an entire city. On every house there are masks hanging on the walls, coloured paper decorations strewn across the exteriors, cumbiamberos – complete with straw hats and red neckerchiefs – propped up outside. Every stereo in the city is turned up to full volume, a mixture of hard carnival-ready cumbias (from the likes of Alfredo Gutierrez and Anibal Velasquez) and Joe Arroyo’s legendary salsa pipes pounding from the speakers. Every cultural institution (of which there are many) has switched to carnival fever. If you want to go to to a museum and see something un-carnival-related you’re out of luck. Every event is adorned with the word “carnaval”! The city has only one agenda, this is holiday season, time for the big verbenas, for the fiestas, to revel in the musical offerings that Barranquilla has to give.

For a good article on what Colombia carnival is all about check out this offering from Gina Vergel: El Carnaval de Curramba: Barranquilla Carnival

Back in the land of the living

14 Mar

Who would have thought 12 days could pass by so quickly. My final flurry of activity in Sao Paulo to complete my last interviews and write up a few articles, as well as make sure I’d actually been to enough concerts to be able to write about some of them, and then eight days in Trindade has meant the pace had to slow on the blog here.

I am now officially back in the real world though, one where it takes a damn sight less than 10 minutes to read an email, and where I suddenly feel so much dirtier with my murky clothes looking so much more distasteful in the sharp, well-dressed environs of Sao Paulo. If you had ever tried to dry clothes in Trindade, i.e. in the rainforest, you would probably understand just why my clothes are currently in such a shabby state!

Over the next few days I will be doing my best to update the blog with a few bits and bobs about Paraty and Trindade carnival, as well as a few extra things about Sao Paulo that have yet to make it from notepad to notebook.

Second Edition of UruguayNow, travel guide to Uruguay, arrives

30 Dec

On 24th December 2010 the Second Edition of UruguayNow (the first English language travel guide to Uruguay) was launched. If I hadn’t been stuffing hundreds of mince pies into my face at the time I would have mentioned this earlier. Well, the mince pie hangover has died off and so I bring the news!

The Second Edition can be viewed HERE. Just a few changes to the first edition, namely a couple of articles I have written about the upcoming Montevideo Carnival and about the Uruguayan Invasion, when a number of Uruguayan bands got so enthused by The Beatles they started to take over the continent (they got as far as Argentina) before people simply got interested in other things. It was an ever-chaning climate those days.

You can read the new edition of UruguayNow right HERE.

Rio Post-Carnival

23 Feb

Unless you’re so wasted from carnival that everything now appears as lights and shapes and there’s no longer any point differentiating between what is good and bad then Rio post-carnival really is not the place to be. On my final day I saw two naked men on the street, one with his pants round his ankles taking a piss in the middle of the road, and another having a shit before cleaning his arse with a broken water pipe. I also saw a man hobbling along with a huge hole in his stomach, from which was seeping some kind of translucent liquid. It’s an image I can’t seem to get out of my head and so probably shouldn’t be writing (damn! which has just made me think of ‘the game.’)

Which all meant that it was actually kind of a relief to leave Rio, which is the first time that’s ever been the case. Oh, and the temperature was 38 degrees the final day, which with no wind and ridiculous humidity is a little bit warm.

Now I’m back in my old hunting ground of Trindade, home of rainforest, many beaches and gabriela (the sweetest drink ever to be supped on these shores!) George, the owner of Kaissara Hostel where I previously worked has said there’s a free bed for as long as I want it. Looks like I’ll be here for a while!


Rio de Janeiro's carnival never really stops

20 Feb

Today (Saturday) is the winners parade for Rio carnival, finishing off the carnival week that started on Monday with the opening parades. It feels like the city is in meltdown. All my friends that have been living in Rio for the past week seem like wrecks. It’s not too surprising, there just never seems to be an end to the parties. Although most Carnival packages only run from Monday to Friday there are plenty of parties and parades still to be had going into the weekend and which will carry on next week. Plus, Rio has pretty much been the hottest place in the world over the last two weeks. Well, I say hottest, it’s actually been the second hottest, only beaten by Ada, a small town in Eastern Ghana. Recorded temperatures were 40 degress, though the lack of wind made it seem like 50 degrees. Right now I am doing an impression of an exasperated tap and it’s only 32, I can’t imagine what it was like last week, but I’m guessing it probably felt like you were really hot flannel that constantly needed wringing out.


I’m also certain this is probably one of the worst times ever to go to Rio. Maybe there are non-stop parties to choose from, and a ridiculous amount thereof, as well as constant parades and soundsystems going through the streets, but the thieves are also on the warpath. One of the hostels, Che Lagarto, got robbed two nights ago by 8 thieves with guns. Last night, down the road from the club I went to a man was stabbed to death. I also spoke to two people in the hostel I stayed in last night who were robbed by tiny children carrying broken bottles in the streets of Lapa. With so many drunk gringos carrying money around it’s a complete haven for the poorer factions of Rio.

The fact that I’ll be staying in Lapa then, where all of these things happened, for the next couple of nights might not seem too smart then. I’ve never had any trouble though and am pretty certain that if you don’t get into such a state that you can easily be robbed and generally don’t walk around with some ridiculously bad Hollyoaks-style caption-led t-shirt, while mouthing loudly in an American accent, that you won’t get robbed.

Brazilian Carnival Approaching

17 Feb

I made it to Florianopolis for the last day of carnival, but the heaven’s opened and I stayed away. Apparently it wasn’t a bad event, just a bit wet (and it still hasn’t stopped raining!). Now my attention has turned to the Rio carnival. The closing event is coming up in three days time. It’s the two opening days of parades which are the most famous ones, but this one should give a chance to see all the floats. The winner by the way was announced the other day and was Unidos da Tjuca.

Unidos da Tijuca 1
Unidos da Tijuca 2

There’s no doubting the step-up in terms of professionalism from the groups in Montevideo. The reason this group, which supposedly had a routine about the mystery of mankind, was because of their elaborate magic tricks, whih made it seem more like David Copperfield act than anything else. I found one video of their whole routine. It’s a bit long but I like the fact that they show the making of their float. The magic tricks are about a couple of minutes into the clip.

Montevideo Carnival – Winners Announced

9 Feb


Yambo Kenia were the victorious comparsa from the two days of llamadas, or in other words they were the best drumming group from two days worth of parades. I think they have won it 3 times in 4 years now, so they are obviously doing something right.


The winner of Best Gramillero (Herb Man) was not this man, but probably someone who looks a lot like him.

Candombe during Carnival

La Melaza, the group I interviewed and who I think are a really great group came 22nd. That’s somewhere around the halfway mark. This video is quite good though because it was recorded off the television and probably shows the dancing clearer than most camcorder footage. There’s a real strange swagger to the way they pop their arms out and do a little two-step forward, one-step back canter. Many people actually watch the whole thing on their tv sets, saving their ears for later life I imagine.

Anyway, I gotta go, we are very close to the end of the UruguayNow website, just a few finishing touches.

Montevideo Carnival – Las Llamadas (Part Two)

7 Feb

The second day of candombe parades were postponed from Friday to Saturday because of a very bad weather forecast. Perhaps this was better as it gave everyone a chance to rest between days, although it did mean my Saturday night trip to the footy had to be put-off. Possibly the Saturday event was even better than Thursday’s. There was a ridiculous turn-out, with it taking at least 10 minutes just to get onto the street where it was being held (I’m gonna be really shocked when I eventually make it to Rio Carnival!)

The atmosphere is really hard to describe because there are a lot of people who are obviously completely wasted but it also feels like a family event. It’s held on a very narrow street in the neighbourhood of Barrio Sur. Everyone who lives in these houses are peering out their windows or on their balconies and rooftops dancing along. Constantly the dancers and drummers in the parade are coming over to the crowds to say hello to friends. Plus, many of the dancers are not what you would call the pick of the bunch, you could easily see a few of them at the local Weightwatchers meeting or working in a library, but this doesn’t stop them from plastering themselves with glitter and adorning a ridiculously slim amount of fancy wears. That in particular is something that I am sure must mark it out as different than Rio, although I obviously have no proof of this as yet.

It was also a ridiculously late affair. I left some time around 2.30am when my legs couldn’t take anymore. A 45 minute walk back to the flat and I turned on the TV to see that it was still going strong. This is just the start of the carnival here, there are something like 40 days left.


[I really need to get a decent camera!]

Montevideo Carnival – Las Llamadas (Part One)

6 Feb

It’s been almost over a week of carnival now. It feels like its been a slow start. The opening ceremony never really got going and since then there have mainly just been a few different theatre shows and not much else. Last night (Thursday) was the first day of the candombe parades, the day I have been looking forward to most.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/4333155589/Mama Vieja

There were between twenty and thirty groups in total, all comprised of a set of drummers, a group of dancers and the obligatory historic characters. Among them are Mama Vieja, who looks after the whole thing, El Gramillero, otherwise known as the Herb Man who has got some seriously bad hips but despite this remains unbelievably chipper and a load of guys who are either there to entertain with a few fancy tricks or to hold the flags.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/4333891902/The Flag Bearers

The Friday llamada has been postponed due to bad weather. The heavens suddenly decided to open up. This means we have to wait one more day for the rest of the candombe groups. In light of the hangover I am still serving I have to think this is for the best.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/4333161057/Lovely Dancers

Montevideo – Carnival is here!

30 Jan

Carnival has officially begun in Montevideo. It was all a bit underwhelming and I kind of forgot it even happened. Like when you buy a bag of Maltesers on the way home from the pub then suddenly remember their existence two days later. Does that actually happen to anyone else? Anyway, the opening ceremony had its moments but suffered from being very drawn out. Tickets had been sold for front row seats which meant all the cheapskates had to do with crowing over from a distance, and as there wasn’t really enough acts to warrant five hours of parading it all seemed a bit uneventful. I managed to stick it out for two hours before the heat and boredom crept in. There just wasn’t enough candombe and the groups which call themselves humoristas and pariodistas may just be some of the most unfunny human beings I have lied my eyes on. I have found men wearing chicken costumes funnier. It will all improve though! Next week features two whole days of Candombe and after that mini stages will be erected in every neighbourhood and there will be performances every night for the following 40 days, of which I will most likely be around for about 2. It’s the longest carnival in the world! I’m not sure if anyone is really that bothered though!

This is what it looked like:


Candombe during Carnival