Carnaval Blocos Rio Street Carnival

Rio Street Carnival - Blocos de Carnaval

“Blocos de Carnival” in Brazil, are surely one of my recent passions, along the samba-schools themselves.  If you really want to feel the vibe of a Carnival “Bloco” or Street Carnival Band, I would suggest you first to read this text.  I am sure your energy once you’re finally in one of them, will be completely different.  I believe it’s important to understand where they came from, how they evolved, and their “reason to exist”.  In many other States of Brazil you may have some of these “blocos de carnaval”, but in no state locals sympathize and are faithful to their favorite bands, as in Rio.   In no other state in Brazil you can have up to 500, yes, 500 colorful blocos in a singular carnival holiday!!! For this reason, we decided to create an exclusive Directory of Rio Street Carnival bands in Rio.  By doing this , revelers all over the world  we have the chance to learn how all of this came together.  Stop by and learn where “Mulheres de Chico”, “Orquestra Voadora”, “Emploga as 9”, and other fabulous “Blocos de Carnaval” came around. 

Below,"Bagunça meu Coreto" Bloco.

Blocos de Carnaval

Rio Street Bands, Blocos de Carnaval, “Blocos de Rua” or simply “blocos” – ( pronounced blo´ku in Portuguese) are some of the names given to “free for all” popular groups of revelers & merry-makers in Rio de Janeiro.  As you will see below, Brazil´s street parties have been revitalized, and today most of the young, beautiful and lively Cariocas remain in Rio and take part in some of the 450 "Blocos de Rua".  Below you will see a fresh new video of a new generation Carnival band in Rio called "Orquestra Voadora".

See below the irreverence of the costumes!

Blocos de  Carnaval

Bloco da Segunda picture by showing revelers of all ages and spirits.

Bloco da Segunda


These street Carnival bands, groups or "blocos" are identified by their names, types of songs they play or neighborhoods where they were established in.    Some of the reasons for the recent success of these "blocos" is that everyone is free to express themselves in their own style at the "marching routes" and also since there is no competition between the bands.    You don´t have to pay a dime to join and it´s, by far, Rio´s most popular, democratic and vibrant carnival expression.   

Below you see merry makers in funny costumes at the 2010 Carnival in Rio.

Orquestra Voadora Foto

Above, you will see Orquestra Voadora, one of the new generation Rio Street Carnival Bands.  In 2010 Carnival in Rio, they about 30,000 people in Fat Tuesday!



Origins of the Blocos de Rua - Street Carnival Bands

"Blocos de Rua", in accordance with some carnaval historians, represent modern versions of old "cordões" (earlier forms of Carnival processions and parades in Brazil).   At first, only a small group of people used to participate on this popular expression.   Initially, most of them were bohemians who spent the nights in Rio´s South Zone bars,  where the bands were created - but, independently  on the 'non slept hours', still had energy to party all day long on the Rio streets....(And sometimes would end up their partying time with a refreshing sea bath at the beach. )  Slowly, these individuals started to organize themselves and draw attention from other members of Rio´s society, including Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) musicians, artists, and workers from very different professional backgrounds.

The first official "bloco/banda" - Banda de Ipanema - arose in the 60's, inspired by Rio party maker Albino Pinheiro, and some friends who saw in the city of Ubá, ( in the state of Minas Gerais)  a small musical band parade on the streets of the tiny city.   Albino, who used to get together with famous Rio de Janeiro bohemians like Darwin Brandão, Claudio Pinheiro, Jaguar, Ziraldo, Ferreira Gullar, Ferdy Carneiro, Roniquito, China, Armando Rosário in the bars called "Zeppelin", "Veloso" and "Jangadeiro", hurried to get everything organized for the first parade of their band.

Having fun is the only pre-condition to join in!

Irreverence in Rio

Above, you see a fan from Orquestra Voadora with his ET partner.

This first "bloco" promoted a parade in Rio streets for the first time in 1965, having 30 shy revelers dressed in white suits, carrying musical instruments which they did not know even how to play.  (They left this task to the Navy Marines Band, hired to cheer the parade.)  From then on, these Cariocas re-discovered the nineteenth century revelers´ formula of having fun, in a free, irreverent and healthy way.

Banda de Ipanema street band inspired the creation of similar bands and "blocos", all of them aiming at having great enjoyment in a closer environment.   These lively revelers also wanted to promote the revival of the neighborhood / local Carnaval merry-making, which was forgotten and had lost some space for the Carnival Balls.    Each of these bands also revealed and reveal to a certain extent, the particular way of living and thinking of members of that specific band.

Some of the bands don´t have determined route!! They just keep on marching!

Blocos de  Carnaval

The second street band created in Rio de Janeiro was Leme's, founded a few years after the "Banda de Ipanema".   Its official 1st parade took place on February 6, 1971 when a small group of revelers delivered the number one member certificate to the Governor in charge Negrão de Lima.   Having no competitive spirit, and having many of its components living in Ipanema, Banda do Leme came up with a more ambitious parade program: leaving every Saturday in February and on the four days of the Rio Carnaval.   Some directors, like Alfredo Carlos and Pinheiro soon realized there were economical problems in this task.    Having no sponsorship, Alfredo thought it would not be difficult to obtain some money from the neighborhood residents, but considered this method inefficient:  Who would be in charge?  He thought soon the band would lose its authenticity, whilst transforming the band into a "club".

Below, Mulheres de Chico Carnival Bloco at a presentation at Lapa in Rio.  Great performance by their drummers!

In 1973 for example, trying to solve this problem, owners from Restaurant "La Fiorentina" at Leme wanted to pay 50 per cent of the expenses case the band gathered in front of that establishment, but this proposal did not move forward since it would break the band´s tradition to gather on Atlântica Avenue, corner of Rua Antonio Vieira Street.    Resisting to many obstacles, "Banda do Leme" thrived through the 70´s and 80´s presenting in its parades artists like Emilinha Borba, Clovis Bornay, Brazilian popular singer Tim Maia, conductor Erlon Chaves, Sérgio Bittencourt, Haroldo Costa, and Iris Letieri to name a few.  Some of these celebrities and personalities would march in the parade in old and colorful convertible cars, most of them offered by the executive Salomão Saad.

Nature and Characteristics

One of the main differences from street bands from regular samba-schools is that they include brass instruments in their orchestra.   Samba-schools by definition are not allowed to have bass instruments like saxophones, trumpets, trombones and also according to the Carnival Regulation Committees in Rio. Another important differentiation aspect is that the Blocos   invite everyone to join at the marching route; you don´t have to be a supporter or affiliated with the band.   A third important difference between Samba-schools and the "blocos" is they follow a pre-determined route on the streets, and not at the Sambadrome. (Some of the "blocos" though, prefer not to follow any route and play still on a square or in particular corner of a street.)  The fourth important differentiation point is the clothing:  Members may come dressed anyway they want, in carnival costumes, bathing suits, plain clothes, special T-shirts, or simply not dressed.   Finally, samba-schools have a number of pre-determined of wings and each of these wings are dressed accordingly to the Carnival Producer or Costume Director.  In case of the Rio Street Carnaval bands, there are no "wings" - everybody is packed up in a mega flock of people.  (The only exception is the musician's wing.)

15 thousand people in Fat Tueday!! What an ecstasy!!

CArnival fever rio

Photo Credit: Brazil Carnival Ooah!  Here orquestra Voadora band at Flamengo Park.

The "blocos de rua" today are still being created when groups of friends with a common interest (neighborhood, work place, leisure etc.) decide to march together with a carnival orchestra.   At a second moment, the carnival street band usually creates its own flag, color and themes, etc. which will be used at the parade.  Finally, they have to register with the tourism department in Rio.  You can start up a "carnaval bloco" with 30 members, and if you are lucky and successful, you can find drive more than 500,000 people to your "own" parade.   This is the beauty of the street bands.  Everything is possible.

Today, we can surely point out that the "Blocos de Rua / Blocos de Carnaval" reflects Rio´s current Carnival charm and style, and are certainly in vogue amongst native Cariocas and Brazilians from all of the country.   In 2010, the police department of Rio estimated that 3 million people took part of Rio´s street carnival partying, beating Salvador at Bahia.  Some of the best "Blocos de Carnaval" are located at Ipanema, Santa Teresa, Copacabana, Botafogo, Flamengo, Leblon, Gávea, Jardim Botânico, and Tijuca.   There is even a street band at the charming Paquetá Island at Rio´s Guanabara Bay!  B

Below, readers can find a current list of the most diverse, lively and fun Street Carnaval Bands in Rio de Janeiro:

Names of Top Blocos de Carnaval in Rio

  • Badalo de Santa Teresa
  • Bafo da Onça
  • Bagunça Meu Coreto"Banda De Ipanema
  • Bangalafumenga
  • Bloco da Ansiedade
  • Bloco das Piranhas
  • Bloco de Segunda
  • Bloco Imprensa Que Eu Gamo
  • Carmelitas
  • Cordao Bola Preta
  • Cordão do Boitatá
  • Empolga as 9
  • Imprensa que Gamo
  • Mulheres de Chico
  • Orquestra Voadora
  • Simpatia E Quase Amor
  • Volta, Alice

If you are planning your next stay in Rio to enjoy these colorful and diverse "blocos de carnaval", make sure to book your hotel and flights with a trustable site like Expedia. Also if you are not renting a car, choose a hotel that is close to public transportation and stores to make it easier for yourself to get around. Authors note:  On this article, the Portuguese terms "blocos de carnaval, "blocos de rua" and "blocos" were used at different moments to help the understanding of new Carnival texts readers.  They all have practically same meaning and are synonyms to a certain extent.

Also, we used to the word "carnival" to express the general pre-lent festivity expression and "Carnaval" to specify the Brazilian version of the Carnival, which is appropriately called "Carnaval".


Even Fred from the Flinstones was there!

Blocos de  Carnaval Rio

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