Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Rio Carnival pictures: Beatles Sergeant Pepper party a big hit in Brazil

A dancer of Sao Clemente samba school parades on a float during carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012.

English speakers got their moment in the Carnival sun as a wild, Beatles-themed street party took place.

Sargento Pimenta, Portuguese for Sergeant Pepper, is one of more than 400 raucous street parties that spring up throughout Rio de Janeiro during Carnival season.

Hundreds of thousands of people turn out for the largest of the "blocos", packed, sweaty open-air dance parties where the crowd sings along to a repetitive medley of Carnival songs - usually in Portuguese, of course.

As many as 850,000 tourists descend on Rio for the five-day-long Carnival free-for-all, and blocos offer plenty of non-verbal opportunities for fun - if drinking till you pass out does not suit your fancy, you might try racking up as many snogging partners as humanly possible during a single street party, a common Carnival game here.

But even with such tantalising diversions, it must be acknowledged that singing along to the blasting music - usually played live by a band on top of a sound truck, with a cordoned-off percussion section trailing behind - is at least half the fun.

Enter Sargento Pimenta, the brainchild of Gustavo Gitelman, a music lover and doctor by trade. Dr Gitelman quickly rounded up an enthusiastic group of Beatles aficionados - so many, in fact that the Fab Four became more of a Fab 70 at the party's debut last year.

A dozen or so singers dressed in T-shirts hung with gilded epaulettes like those on the Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover belted out a medley. The percussion band that accompanied them was swallowed up in the sea of humanity that turned out for the show, but their rhythms rocked the crowd.

The group gives the Beatles repertoire a Brazilian tweak, adapting All My Loving to the peppy beat of a traditional Carnival marchinha, or march, and infusing Hard Day's Night with a Rio funk sound. I Want to Hold Your Hand morphed into a samba. Even the melancholic Hey Jude was spiked with an infectious upbeat energy. But the biggest winner of the day was Twist and Shout, which had the beer-guzzling crowd shimmying and shaking under the intense mid-afternoon sun.

Though the group has adapted a handful of the songs into Portuguese, most are sung in the original English, much to the delight of Anglophone visitors, many of whom can fully participate in the bloco experience for the first time.

"At the other blocos, you get kind of jealous because everyone is singing besides you, so you can feel a bit left out," said Amanda Weaver, a 33-year-old Canadian who has been living in Brazil for two months. "I really love to sing, and finally I get to."

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz