The anticipation was almost painful. I knew that it was coming but it moved so slowly toward me that I nearly couldn’t take it. I could hear it building its strength like a giant beast preparing for a fight at the bottom of the hill and then finally it began to move. I couldn’t see it yet but the sound that it made radiated throughout the city and up the cobblestone street in front of my hostel.
A tsunami of rhythm swelled as it rolled up the narrow streets of Salvador Brazil. Its power was confined and amplified by the pastel blue, green and pink buildings that surrounded it. The snare drums’ rapid fire snapping pierced the air while the bass drums’ deep booming thundered off the walls. Simple and primitive beats that stirred the ancient human soul millennia ago gave me a surge of energy and joy. I knew that the same beats would possess the same beauty and strength millennia in the future.
The first thing I saw was a crowd of revellers dancing and swaying to the pulsing music. Some of them had on normal cloths and others wore ridiculous costumes. There were old women who moved like young girls. There were parents with smiling children on their shoulders dressed in superman, ladybug and princess costumes. Most of the children had cans of foam or squirt guns that they mischievously sprayed into the air and onto adult partiers.
Next came the official dancers. Women clad in elaborate red and gold costumes that made them look like ancient Egyptian princesses. They vibrated and twirled with the beat while their smiles radiated from their dark faces.
And then finally it was in front of me, the source of the sonic marvel. I was shocked to see that the creators of the tidal wave of sound were teenagers playing old and dented instrument that they had painted bright colors. They were children with shabby instruments but the music that they created had more life and verve than anything on the radio or TV and it was completely devoid of the self-indulgent arrogance that is the essences of popular music. There was no motivation in their music besides passion and joy.
As they passed the music began to weaken and fade but like all powerful waves it possessed an undertow pulled me along in its wake. I found myself dancing down the street with a hundred other people. We were united by the beat. Any sense of awkward self-consciousness was obliterated by the music and the smiles around me.
The rhythm repeated over and over. It was simple and pure. The repetition only made it more legitimate. It rolled again and again with only slight variation. It possessed the same cyclical power as the tide, the path of the sun and the seasons. Its power and durability was proven in that its appeal only grew with repetition after repetition.
As we moved up the street and into the plaza we had to stop because there was another band in the plaza already. I looked across the plaza to another street and saw a third group of musicians and brightly colored dancers waiting to enter the plaza. The only problem with Carnival in Brazil was that there was so much amazing music, dance and pageantry that it overlapped and got in the way of itself.
Brazil just like the festival that is so intertwined with its identity is so massive and amazing and at times it is completely overwhelming. It’s a nation that has too many amazing beaches, islands, cities, forests, rivers and people. I could visit it again and again in and still fail to see and experience everything but that is not going to prevent me from trying.