One of the world's most expensive 'free' shows, the multi-million-dollar (U.S.) annual Rio de Janeiro?
One of the world's most expensive 'free' shows, the multi-million-dollar (U.S.) annual Rio de Janeiro carnival in Brazil, exploded into its usual riot of colour and sound on Saturday (19 February). As always, it was a day ahead of schedule. The orgy of music, dancing and drinking is officially held over a four-day period -- but after a year of hard work on the preparations, It's hard to stop it bursting into life before the starting signal.
SYNOPSIS: This year was no exception. Before midnight of the official opening day, the renowned samba bands were already out on the streets weaving their magic musical spells and attracting a mass gathering of followers.
In Rio, it's called the "free carnival", because despite the money poured into it by the organisers and performers, the entertainment is enjoyed by the public for nothing. Anyone who can find a space along the carnival routes joins in -- even if with only an impromptu pavement dance. Man or woman, it doesn't matter -- one takes a partner and swings to the passing rhythm.
With trumpets blaring and drums shattering the night air, the samba groups set the pace -- winding their way through the streets to the frenzied accompaniment of clapping, cheering, and whistling, lubricated by the inevitable bottle of rum or local cane alcohol. The local carnival queens make their first appearance during the curtain-raiser -- getting a taste of the adulation they will receive from tens of thousands of carnival-goers during the festival itself.