Rhythms Pound in Preparation for Carnival
Rewrite from Thursday, 2 February for journalism class
Drums thumping to Brazilian beats, Dorothy gets away as the evil witch dances after her, both of them dressed in colorful, feathered garb. This was the scene last night, as the Austin Samba School rehearsed its adaptation of The Wizard of Oz in preparation for Saturday’s Carnaval Brasileiro appearance.
“She’s been preparing for at least half a year now,” said Darren. His wife Karen is one of the percussionists in the act. “I’m just here to make sure everyone knows where to go,” he said of his role. He acts as a kind of usher for the performers. When they are carried away in their dancing and fun he stands and points to the spot they are supposed to be headed to next.
Carnival is an old, Catholic tradition very similar to Mardi Gras. Every year, before Lent, people dress up and get together to party, dance, eat, and drink in some of the most colorful and festive clothes you may ever see. Places like Venice, Rio de Janeiro, and Spain are famous for their Carnival celebrations. Brazilian Carnival is known for its colorfully elaborate and feathered headpieces that women wear during the festivities. It is also popular to dance during the festivities, particularly to Samba.
Samba is a Brazilian style of music similar to the Caribbean styles of Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican music, although unlike music from these countries, it is common for Samba to be predominantly percussion-based in parties like these. Samba is a very well known form of music, and is growing in popularity, even among non-Brazilians in the United States. “This school has been around for, about 10 years I’d say,” said Robert Patterson, the man who directed the group, “and I believe this our eighth Carnaval Brasileiro that we’re doing.” Robert, a doctor by profession, has taken up the time to train the 60 percussionists the hour-long routine. He isn’t Brazilian but is very familiar with Brazilian culture and visits Rio often. Among the performers, he goes by his Brazilian name (Tio) Jacaré. Whistle in mouth and a hand in the air, Jacaré orchestrates the entire band through every minute of the hour and a half rehearsal.
Every scene is acted out through rhythmic dance, and every character accounted for, including a man dancing around dressed up as Toto. One of the most impressive improvisations was using practitioners of capoeira—a beautiful dance-like martial art in which one does various kicks, flips, and tricks—as the evil witch’s flying monkeys.
Overall witnessing the rehearsal was an insightful sneak peak into what the festivities this Saturday night at the Palmer Event Center will be like.