Listener Sends 'Postcard' from Rio's Carnival

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Rio De Janiero is preparing for its most celebrated event of the year — Carnival. Helen Clegg takes audiences to Rio to hear preparations for this Saturday's kickoff.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

We brought you back that little musical souvenir from our trip to South Carolina for the primary last week. Now we have an audio postcard. It's an occasional feature our listeners bring back to us from their travels.

Producer Helen Clegg takes us to Brazil, where Carnival is just around the corner and frantic preparations are under way. Actual Carnival starts this Saturday and ends on Tuesday, exactly 40 days before Easter. But practice parties called blocos can be found all over town.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HELEN CLEGG: I love blocos - the street parties in Rio de Janeiro that help the city get warmed up for Carnival. And even the names of the parades range from sly to spicy. Some of them are obvious: Band of Ipanema, or just Tambourines. Some spell out the vibe, affection and (unintelligible) love are the brilliantly kind souls and a favorite of mine, I am Easy. And others are just plain random, like It's Good, but No One Knows.

Blocos begin here weeks before Carnival just to make sure every one's in the mood, while the samba schools actually get to do their thing. For many, they're the face of Carnival, groups rehearsing for months in the poorer neighborhoods off the valleys here so they can parade to the famous samba drum in style.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CLEGG: But for many people, the sheer mayhem of the blocos is what they're waiting for.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CLEGG: And there are around 200 of them across Rio, including blocos for children, gay and transvestites, and all of them full of colorful, fancy costume. I've seen men and/or women in heavenly jeweled string bikinis and poodles in tutus and slippers. But the truth spirit of Carnival, for me, is when everyone comes together. Add the heavy drumming or bacceria(ph) band, and each bloco's got its own, and the result is traffic stopping - literally.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CLEGG: Forget New Orleans' Mardi Gras. Rio Carnival blocos you can guarantee are the most debauched street parties you'll ever go to. You can buy a caipirinha or lethal Brazilian cocktails from around midday, and they drink well into the next morning. And at a bloco, you may well be asked by a Brazilian if you want to (unintelligible) around for a while, basically indulge in a kissing session. That, copious alcohol, and an intoxicating samba beat, make blocos, for me, unforgettable.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: That was Helen Clegg. She is a producer based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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