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Samba-Rock and Rio Revelry

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“Roll the drums in the Avenida
South Korea celebrates Carnaval!

Source:  Folha de S.Paulo

Tonight at the Rio Sambadrome, the Special Group of the city’s elite samba schools kicks off with an homage to South Korea … whose relevance to Carnaval tradition is a little difficult to understand.

As it turns out, a São Paulo samba society — the Unidos da Vila Maria — also commemorated Korean emigration to Brazil.

The theme, adopted by the Innocents of Belford Roxo, is not the only one to raise eyebrows.

Suffering lean times due to the international financial crisis and to police actions that have cut off of funding by the jogo de bicho numbers bankers, the samba schools have been frantically searching for private sector sponsorships.

An example is the theme adopted by Salgueiro and sponsored by the Grupo Abril’s Caras magazine [ — think of it as a Brazilian People —Tr.] … The theme: humanity’s eternal quest for fame. …

Vila Isabel received subsidies from international pesticide company BASF and produced a theme relating to agriculture and country life.  The reigning champion, Unidos da Tijuca, is supported by German companies promoting the project Alemanha+Brazil 2013-2014.

The four samba societies just mentioned are the royalty of Rio Carnaval. They have the best infrastructure and can draw on the biggest budgets —  between US$4 million and US$10 million budgets — to mount their parades.

Question: how much of the revenue earned by Globo thanks to its monopoly on worldwide broadcast rights is plowed back into the escolas de samba?

«É a samba-hroque meu irmão»

Outside the elite group, meanwhile, Mocidade has received support from Rock in Rio and is using recycled materials in an innovative way to produce its  rock and roll-themed parade.  One of its floats is made of 15,000 used CDs.

Caption: Vila Isabel member puts the finishing touches on a float. The carnaval society will present the history of agriculture and the life of a simple agricultural laborer.

Some schools have worked to create a “sponsorable” thematic concept, but without result.

With the support of oil companies, Grande Rio will present the history of the oil industry and the dispute over royalties, taking the side of the Rio state government in the dispute. It has received no other funding from private industry or the state government — even though the insistent chorus of its samba-enredo insists, “Without them [i.e., royalties] there will be chaos.”

Inocentes, meanwhile, in its first appearance as part of the Special Group, was itself left empty-handed. A group of Korean businessmen promised Inocentes funding if it featured the country in its parade. The promise was not kept.

Also scheduled to appear tonight is Portela, with a  classic, old-school homage to the Madureira neighborhood,where it was born. Mangueira will celebrate the city of Cuiabá. União da Ilha will pay homage to the poet and composer Vinicius de Moraes, while São Clemente presents the world of telenovelas, the popular soap operas..

We look forward to seeing these mighty, mighty cultural juggernauts out on the Avenida. Our physical involvement will probably not amount to more than going to see off the local G.R.E.S., Pérola Negra.

Judging from its site, Pérola has obtained modest corporate sponsors ranging from a VW franchise, Brahma beer, a manufacturer of electric fixtures called Radial, and a local towing service.

Its theme is the auto da compadecida — a 1955 theater piece by Northeastern writer Ariano Suassuna.

To come: and what of the heavyweights of samba paulista?