If you're looking for a paroxysm of Brazilian-style Carnival in the US, zero in on Texas. Austin is where local flamboyance meets thundering samba in Carnaval Brasileiro, the largest and oldest event of its kind in the US.
About 6,000 people are expected to attend Carnaval Brasileiro 2012, the 35th edition of an indoor party which began as a way to offer UT’s Brazilian students a dose of Carnival away from home. Producer Mike Quinn is a gringo in the know: since falling hard for Brazilian music and culture in the 1970s, he has lived in Brazil, promoted Brazilian music as the host of a Latin American music radio show and the owner of Ipanema Records, and helped bring Brazil music legends - Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti and others - to perform in Austin.
Quinn has shared many of his insights on Brazil life, such as music and nightlife tips, on his blog Sambamaster on the Road.
Carnaval Brasileiro has some of the atmosphere of Banda de Ipanema and the Carnival parties at Scala Rio. Lamé costumes, towering Carmen Miranda-inspired headdresses, men in drag, women and trans women with bare torsos are all part of the scene. Though semi-nudity has drawn as much attention to Carnaval Brasileiro as far-fetched attire to Eeyore's Birthday Party, Austin's spring extravaganza, Quinn makes a point of highlighting what he sees as the core of Carnaval Brasileiro, what he calls "an authentic taste of the real deal": the music.
And music in Carnival Brasileiro is something to be proud of. In Carnaval Brasileiro 2012, Beleza Brazil (formerly Grupo Saveiro) is again performing with a mix of samba, frevo, bloco-afro and other rhythms of ground-shaking intensity.
Based in the US, Beleza Brazil is made up of musicians with beefy resumés playing cavaquinho, acoustic guitar, and percussion including tantã, pandeiro, tamborim, surdo, trap set and repique. Almost all the musicians are Brazilian.
Their collective background covers several venues, events, and gigs and recordings with an A-Z of Brazilian talent such as Baden Powell, Beth Carvalho, the late Clara Nunes, Elba Ramalho, Leci Brandão, Milton Nascimento and many others.
Then there's Acadêmicos da Ópera, Austin's own samba school. They place their drum section in the middle of the dance floor for an up-close taste of a Rio Carnival parade.
Carnaval Brasileiro in Austin 2012:
Feb.4, 2012 at 9 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.)
Palmer Events Center, Austin, TX, USA
$38 online with a $2 processing fee. They can also be purchased (cash only) at these Austin stores:
- Costume World (No fee; the store is also selling the 2012 poster)
8207 Burnet Road
- Waterloo Records (charges a service fee)
600 N. Lamar
- Lucy In Disguise (no fee)
1506 S. Congress
Pre-Carnival Parties 2012:
- January 13 at 7 p.m. at Speakeasy, 412 Congress Ave., Austin, TX. Featuring Acadêmicos da Ópera, a body painter, and Dos XXs specials.
- January 20, 2012 at Roial, 120 West Fifth, Austin, TX. Details to be announced.
For more information call 512-452-6832, log onto www.sambaparty.com and check for updates on Facebook.