Pictured: Daniela Mercury's "Water" Trio from last year's Carnaval.

Last year we visited Savador da Bahia for Carnaval 2010, which was a week to remember.  Unfortunately we could not attend this year, but with today’s official start, we thought a little background and highlights of the most popular Carnaval in Brazil deserved some attention.

Carnaval’s origins in Salvador date back to 1884 when a festival celebrating the countdown to Easter was celebrated in a ballroom.  The annual festivities moved into the streets, and for years floats and clubs were the center of revelry.

In 1950 the first trio appeared in Salvador’s streets.  Musicians Adolfo Antonio Nascimento and Osmar Alvares de Macedo watched a Pernambuco group hit the streets and were inspired to retrofit an old 1929 Ford.  They put an amplifier on the roof and played their guitars to the delight of locals--and a Salvador tradition was born.

in front of Daniela Mercury's trio, Feb. 2010

in front of Daniela Mercury's trio, Feb. 2010

For decades Salvador’s black majority were ignored during Carnaval, but what was once knows as the Ile Aye festival emerged from the African neighborhood of Curuzu-Liberty, and then the Filhos de Gandhy, a tradition since 1949, became even more popular during Carnaval.  Three main circuits emerged:  the Batantinha, which swerves through the downtown streets; Campo Grande (or Osman), that became a locus for the trios, and finally the route along Barra/Ondina, a four kilometer trek that became the showcase for Carnaval’s best trios.

The Barra-Ondina route was more of an “alternative” circuit until Daniela Mercury adopted the route for her trios in 1996.  Now as many as two million revelers enter Salvador during Carnaval, the vast majority of which are from Rio de Janeiro, whose residents flee the city while foreign tourists come . . . and arrive in Salvador for the week long music festival.

another view of DM's "water" trio, much of which was decorated with empty water bottles

So how do you account for all the trios’ followers who want to celebrate in Salvador’s very hot and muggy summer climate?  Most Carnavel revelers wore a hot and bulky shroud, which was too uncomfortable for Salvador’s oppressive heat.  In 1993 a designer came up with the idea of an adabá, a uniquely designed t-shirt that is not only lightweight, but identifies you to the trio to which you shelled out a huge wad of cash for the privilege of following your favorite performer.

If slowly walking for several ideas is not your idea of a fun time, you can always purchase a ticket to a camarote, a huge cabin where you can not only watch the trios pass through Barra, but the same performers who perform on the trios often host one of these events as all.  Think of a camarote has a huge temporary tent or cabin turned into a nightclub.

Last year Daniela Mercury performed for three nights, and we had reserved adabás for two of them.  The themes were earth, fire, and water; this year Mercury is focused on the arts, and her four different themes are theater, painting, dance, and music.

If you are in Salvador this year for Carnaval and have pictures, we would love to see them.  Do share!  And more on Carnaval is to come!

Special thanks to Lian Calvo Serrano for the background information on Carnaval.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.