Samba or Soca: Would you choose Rio Carnival over Trinidad Carnival?
So what if I told you that I was giving up Carnival in Brazil for Carnival in Port of Spain? You would probably say that I was crazy, foolish or have to be joking, right? Maybe you might say I just got bitten by the notorious Trinidad Carnival bug.
Well, let me tell you, I am coming home for Carnival 2k11, and I am giving up the opportunity to spend it in Brazil, where I have the cities of Salvador, Recife, Olinda and Rio de Janiero to choose from. Did I mention that I only recently came back from Trinidad after spending five weeks at home enjoying the ‘pre-wining season’? So what really is my story?
I have had the fortune of spending more than half my life living outside of Trinidad. I’ve lived in England, France and the U.S. I am currently in Brazil ‘living the dream’, according to my friends, and don’t get me wrong, I am blessed, but anybody who has lived in a foreign country will concur that it is not always a bed of roses and the novelty wears off.
It takes a while to integrate, to know your way around, learn the ways of the land, and, in my case, learn de people language. It can be a lonely and humbling existence, as you are no longer in your comfort zone. Not that I don’t have friends or find it difficult making ones, but sometimes when all you crave is a hot, tasty doubles, with slight pepper and an Apple J, unfortunately you have to settle for tapioca and coconut water.
Brazil has so much to offer other than the postcard image of bikini-toting women with big posteriors, small waists, curly hair with the ability to seduce a man and render him motionless with one piercing look. There are miles of beautiful beaches, seemingly endless natural resources with minerals from the south, oil to the east, and rich, fertile land in the north. The smiles of the locals, the comforting climate and the plethora of sweet melodic music make this place a true paradise, just like Trinidad, but ‘different’. No wonder Brazilians, like Trinis, are a happy bunch.
Carnival in Brazil is rich in culture, tradition, music and colour. Recife has the world famous ‘Galo da Madrugada’, where over a million people crowd the street dressed in costumes from bikinis to spider-man pyjamas. Bahia has religious festivals like Candomblé and martial arts like capoeira mixed in with their festivities to make this carnival incredibly diverse.
Then there is Rio, or as the Brazilians pronounce it ‘Hio’. Rio has the lavish swanky carnival, where the professional samba dancers do their thing to a mix of local music. Samba in itself is a mixture of African, European and Cuban beats, hugely influenced by the African slaves, who were brought to the states of Bahia and Rio and ended up living in the favelas (slums) of the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’.
So why give all this up? I mean Trinidad Carnival not going anywhere, so why not take this opportunity to revel in a different culture that I am coming to love? Oh… and gape too!
Well, Rio has been going through a lot over the last few months. Three months ago the state government decided that they had enough of being embarrassed by drug pushers, thieves, and murderers, who have been running amuck for quite some while. They went on an all-out offensive, storming some of the most notorious favelas with a zero tolerance policy. They made no joke.
The aftermath is a city recovering from car and bus bombings, arson attacks, and a city with police and military force that will not hesitate to ‘put two’ in anyone they catch on the wrong side of the law. Oh, not to mention a population living in fear. The state of Rio de Janiero also experienced the worst weather-related natural disaster in the country’s history, over Christmas and the New Year, leaving almost 1,000 people dead and thousands more homeless.
Even if I were to overlook all this and say let me suck it up and experience de people dem culture this year, the economics just don’t make sense. After a bit of research, I found out that a return ticket to Rio from Recife and accommodation is more than the price of a return ticket to Trinidad. Hang on a second… Trinidad is home, I eh paying for no hotel home. Then I think about it some more and realise, I eh know nobody in Rio and don’t know my way around, so let’s throw in another $200US for transport, because I not taking the buses after seeing movies like “City of God” and “Bus 174”. Whilst checking to see how to ‘play mas’ there, I found out that I have to be enrolled in a samba school, so that rules me out of taking part in the ‘Sambadrome’ unfortunately.
I could still enjoy the street parties, but as we all know from our carnival, the music, vibe, and crew is as important as the scenery. Don’t get me wrong, my friends here are fun, but I don’t care how much Samba, Frevo, Brega, Bossa nova, Forró, Pagode, Axé and Sertanejo you throw at me, for 2k11, I definitely prefer to be getting on “Wotless”, “Wining to the side”, and possibly taking “Advantage” somewhere in Port of Spain. All this will be done with the knowledge that I will have my ten-strong crew, who without doubt, will be feeling the same way. Not to mention, there will no doubt be the added excitement of one or two angry Soca artistes who might pull a Ravi B at Soca Monarch this week.
So, with all this in mind, I think I might give it a year or two, before I rounds up the boys, enrol them in a samba school and make a big lime. As much as I am for cultural diversity, cultural awareness and embracing my new environment, please allow me as I indulge myself by spending my hard-earned money on partying with my friends, roaming around my own ‘cidade maravilhosa’ and enjoying melodious pan, sweet Chutney, Soca, Calypso, and some extra bacchanal too.
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (28/2/11; Issue 47):
- Wotless and Wack this Carnival? Not Cute
- Do Trinis Really Acknowledge Women’s Rights and Achievements?
- Bosses and Bitches: Winning the War in the Workplace
- Saving Money the Ole Time Way: Is the Sou Sou Outdated?
- Over 30. Still single. No prospects. Is something wrong with you?
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!