This week I am sure that wherever you are in the world, you will know that it was carnival in Brazil. Maria and I stayed in São Paulo, which after the exodus of millions to the beach or retreats in the country, becomes a wonderful city to explore, empty of the incessant traffic, but full of relaxed Paulistas, some taking time to enjoy the insane number of cultural and culinary delights, and many others of course joining in the festival of dance and music.
The carnival of São Paulo often remains out of the international spotlight, slightly overshadowed by the monumental celebrations of Rio de Janeiro and in the north of Brazil. It’s funny as many Brazilians complain about stereotypes that foreigners have of Brazil, the two main ones being samba and football, and in this world cup year there was the double whammy of football featuring in many of the schools.
Of course a good part of the international media also focus on another great stereotype, the enchantingly-clad women, and papers like The Daily Mail as per usual went to town with a great deal of photos of this type. But something else seemed to be incredibly special this year, something I didn’t see reported so much, and that was the wonderful focus on issues of both sustainability and also spirituality, themes which many samba schools dealt with.
In this article I thought I would offer a few comments on Mocidade Alegre, the São Paulo school of samba who won this year’s competition by just a matter of 0.3 points. Both Maria and I thought that is was sensational, and I thought I would say why. Pictures do not really do carnival full justice, and so I found this video of Mocidade Alegre which you should definitely watch. Be sure to select High Definition if it does not come on automatically.
The theme the school had chosen this year was world religions, and the batteria (the drummers) were all dressed up as Krishna. As well as the huge floats which are always sensational, there are also groups of dancers who are grouped together in the same costumes. So we had dancers dressed as curanderos (women who are folk healers), indigenous peoples, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, as well as witches, sorcerers and even a float which felt with the issue of those who use religion to take money from those who are vulnerable.
I thought that the performance of the whole school was sensational, uplifting and a delight to watch. As a stiff-upper-lip-Brit, it is so wonderful to see in each member not just emotion, but such deep feelings of connection with the pure spirit of the school. The spirit really comes to presence in each participant, who really do seem to be hyper-present, living in the pure moment of a happiness rarely seen in peoples outside of Brazil.
There is a huge collective intelligence in a school of samba, intellectually in terms of the research which goes into exploring the proposed theme in depth, in order to present the theme in a profound manner. But there is also a deep artistic collective intelligence, rarely achieved in organisations, whereby the most fantastically complex operation comes together as a whole, with the Director of Harmony, who along with a large team of co-ordinators, is responsible for a wholeness in the dance and music, which given the thousands of members who take part in each parade, is unparalleled.
As I said, both Maria and I loved the many different schools of samba this year, in Rio as well as São Paulo. I thought you may enjoy hearing about Mocidade, as maybe they did not receive the attention worldwide that surely they deserved. Well done Mocidade! Parabéns 🙂