For millions of people around the world, this Friday evening should be the most joyous of the year – the first night of carnival. In a normal year, brass and steel pan bands in New Orleans and Trinidad would be polishing their instruments after months of rehearsals, and mardi gras paraders pulling on spangled costumes before hitting the streets. And Cariocas, residents of Rio de Janeiro, would be limbering up for what they proudly call “the world’s biggest party”.
Not this year, sadly: it’s been cancelled everywhere from Cádiz to the Caribbean. What a shame. Carnival would be the perfect antidote to our current woes: five carefree nights of dancing, music and drinking … social distancing be damned.
Rio stages the ultimate artistic expression of carnaval, a ridiculously grandiose spectacle of glitz and glitter to a booming samba soundtrack. Dozens of samba schools across the city spend all year preparing for their time in the spotlight, employing hundreds of designers, painters, musicians, seamstresses, sculptors and mechanics – each preparing a parade of around 4,000 revellers, who dance to the beat of a 300-strong bateria, or drumming band.
Highlights of last year’s Rio carnival
A year in the making for a 70-minute performance. Any longer and the samba school is docked points, for although each parade is a living work of art, the competition between them is as fierce as a Brazilian football match. Every aspect of the parade – the song, costu