Once a year
in Rio de Janeiro is the Carnival. It is a time for celebration
and the people take to the streets for the parade and the dance
and the party. The costumes are elaborate and have often taken
a whole year to put together.
various neighbourhoods around the city are the Samba Club. Every
Saturday night through out the year the people come together ostensibly
to work on the dances and performances that their particular group
will take to the carnival in February, but it was also a good
excuse for a very big party.
During GANGgajang's first national tour of Brazil, Ricardo Chantilly
the man who made it all happen, took us to visit a Samba Club
that was organised by friends of his in his old neighbourhood.
It was quite an eye-opener. It seems that pretty much wherever
you go in Brazil there are guards with machineguns. This place
was no exception although the people with the guns weren't wearing
It was a large brick hall that was also like a walled enclosure
because the roof didn't meet the top of the wall for about a meter
all round presumably for ventilation. It was all painted white.
There was a big crush out the front, which was a bit daunting
for us gringos. As it transpired we were VIPs so after we were
searched rather roughly for weapons, we were shown through to
our private box.
There was a mezzanine level inside the building that held private
boxes that would fit between ten and fifteen people each. There
were maybe forty of them all the way round. They were all open
and whitewashed rough brick like the rest of the place. We were
at one end a long rectangular room. Also on that level, facing
off across the room, were two groups of musicians. On the first
stage was a large band of with a number of excellent singers,
while on the opposite stage were crammed at least fifty drummers
whose precision syncopation was breath taking.
Our party was provided with three eskies full of "Antarctica
Cerveja" (beer) on ice and just as well as it was thirsty
work just watching the proceedings. Below us, the entire downstairs
area filled up with at least three thousand people and became
the dance floor. It was absolutely packed.
It really started to kick in about 11.00pm and over the next five
hours it became progressively wilder. I will never forget the
thrill of hearing those massed drummers cracking out those impossible
syncopations with precision synchronicity. As the irresistible
rhythms became loader and faster, the people responded accordingly,
becoming progressively more out of control. The sexual energy
in the place was palpable. People weren't wearing much at the
start of the night and much less at the end. The dancing became
more basic, more primitive and sexual as the night wore on.
The dance became everything. At one point it seemed to reach critical
mass and from our vantage point the dance floor erupted into a
writhing sea of humanity. Up on the mezzanine level we all spilled
into each others private boxes (if you know what I mean) and the
whole place was electric.
Intoxicated by the atmosphere (OK, and much beer) and inspired
by the locals, almost all of the GANGgajang entourage were giving
their feet a work out attempting The Samba.
I say "almost" all, because from time to time I am prone
to the odd bout of sciatica. Unfortunately this turned out to
be one of those times.
was celebrating their humanity through dance, I was confined to
sitting gingerly rigid in one place, careful not deviate from
that position lest I be punished with a searing stab of blue white
sciatic pain shooting from my neck to my toes.
As the need to dance became overwhelming, I managed, with a few
wincing maneuvers, to not only stand on my feet but also, if I
twisted my body a certain way, to make tentative swaying motions
that sort of resembled dancing. I had just started to clap along
as well when some wag, most probably Rob James, called out, "Have
a look at Geoff. He's doing the Lumbago!"