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There’s just something about Rio that makes you love it. It’s hard to put your finger on what it is exactly, but music definitely plays a big part.
Sitting on the metro, a couple of local teenagers hop on with a saxophone and some kind of mandolin and start dancing in the middle of the carriage, huge smiles on their faces. At the end of their first song, a big round of applause is directed their way. As they start rocking out to their next song, my neighbour turns to me and declares: “you can’t help but feel good after that” and he’s right, I feel great!
That feeling isn’t reserved for those moments sitting in the metro though; you run in to live music at every corner. Quite literally in the case of one three piece I found playing drums, trumpet and saxophone on a street corner near my house. These guys described themselves as playing “music of the street” and it couldn’t be more true as they are passed on either side by busy, evening-commuters on foot and in their cars.
One grey-haired passer-by in particular is lapping up the early evening tunes. He hops from one foot to the other, up and down the pavement. It’s not long before he spots a group of teenage girls that take his fancy and he slowly dances his way over to them. With a huge grin on his face, he offers his hand as an invitation for any of them to join him for a dance (he’s not fussy). They’re having none of it, but he doesn’t really care at all, continuing to dance along.
From street music to something more serious: Samba… You don’t have to be in Rio for Carnival to get a feel for Brazil’s love for this dance. Samba schools are supported with the same enthusiasm as football teams, with tattoos and t-shirts proudly worn around town. I’ve been to Salgueiro a few times since I arrived, and I love it! Every inch of the samba school is emblazoned with the red and white “team” colours – floor, walls, ceiling, even tables and chairs! At Salgueiro, the samba band sit high above the action down below, playing their instruments and dancing to the music that they are creating. On the stage opposite stand dancers and the lead singer who gets the crowd rocking with songs about Salgueiro, the winners of 2013’s Carnival.
Every now and again, elaborately dressed dancers will appear on the floor and dance their way to each end of the room. As I walk past one dancer waiting to take to the floor, it is clearly evident by my pale skin that I’m a gringo. “Hey, do you want to take a photo with me?” she smiles. I was only crossing the club for a pee but “Sure!” I say, crouching down next to the sprawling skirt. It seems that whatever kind of music you encounter here, those involved are proud and passionate to be part of it.
There’s more to all this than just enjoying great music though. They like to give something back to the local community through what they are doing too. Gig-goers are often offered half price tickets in exchange for a kilo of food that is then distributed in the poorer communities of the city. Live music always puts a smile on my face, but it’s nice to think that here, musicians are putting smiles on people’s faces even if they can’t make it to the gig.
What’s your favourite city for live music? I’d love to hear in the comments below!