Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aromatic String

As I bustled past street vendors selling coconut candy bars and the sleek, shiny-haired, hotties that fill Rio streets, I realized that I missed something. I couldn't put my finger on what exactly. When I neared the the orgy of beauty called Copacabana Beach, observing the languid motions of skimpily-clad cariocas strolling in the sand, it hit me. There was supposed to be a samba soundtrack to all of these scenes! How can you have a true Brazilian experience without samba as the backdrop? I needed to hear some live Brazilian rhythms!

It happened to be a Sunday when I made my proclamation and my guide Da'vid didn't look too confident about it. It seems that most musicians take Sundays off in Rio. There I was, in the party capitol of the universe and it stops on Sunday? It didn't make much sense to me so we headed to the famous bohemian district of Lapa. Overflowing with street hustlers and artists of all stripes, Lapa does not close down. Built in the 18th century and marked by two towering arches, Lapa is part of old Rio. Punctuated by crumbling, deserted mansions and dimly lit, dodgy looking streets, Lapa feels like something out of the Brazilian drug war movie, "City Of God," which it probably is. It is the only place that I visited in Brazil that prompted me to remember the high crime rate.

I got over it, though. Lapa looks iffy but I never witnessed anything other than beaming friendliness while I was there. We found a tiny, closet-sized bar called Acaso Bar, which literally translates to random bar. Bursting with laughing, dancing people, all the patrons sing and play instruments along with the musicians. Red, gold and orange walls frame scuffed cherry wood tables filled with Skol beer bottles. Dav`id and I order bacalau or salt fish balls and the zesty, local Skol beer, while we absorb the festivities.

Three or four men gather in a circle and play samba classics with guitars and percussion. I can't tell exactly who was in the band and who's not because every single person in the bar shakes a tambourine, bangs on a pot or jingles bells. The crowd belts along with tunes that were created to encourage hip and derriere shimmying. Four women dance enthusiastically. Because they are Brazilian, they are gorgeous; with long, lustrous hair and sinewy bodies. I can't tell if they are in the band either.

After two sweaty sets, a band member comes over and introduces the group. It's called Coisas Nossas or literally translated, aromatic string. He hands me a wisp of sweetly perfumed string with a tiny safety pin to remember them. In street carnivals, the line of people dancing samba is called a string. Curly-haired and charming, he is the grandson of one of Brazil's most significant Samba composers, Cartola. As we are surrounded by everyday Brazilians singing and dancing, I'm sure it's just the way Cartola would have wanted samba to be experienced.


Anonymous said...

There are all sorts of sensations coming out of this blog! The last post left me peckish (translate; Jamaican for feeling for something tasty) and now I'm feeling slighty dizzy from all the sights and sounds. Thanks for taking me to Brazil!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jacqueline! I hope that you'll join me on all my travels. The next stop will be Barbados!