Doing The "Lumbago"


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.

In the 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 uniforms.

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.

While everyone 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!"