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Carnaval 2014 is officially on!

Bloco Sargento Pimenta
Bloco Sargento Pimenta

'Tis that time of the year when Brazilians and Brazilian culture enthusiasts everywhere put all things aside in order to honor one of the country's oldest and most widely recognizable tradition: Carnaval. And although it has been upon us for a good part of February, it officially starts tomorrow with parades (Rio's and Sao Paulo's being the most popular), events and parties all around Brazil and some franchises elsewhere.

The East Coast is no stranger to Brazilian culture and its festivities and there will be several choices for whoever is feeling homesick or just wants to spend the next 5 days partying and having an overall good time.
In New York City, among other choices, a few stand out. The Brazilian Carnival in Astoria - March 1st and 2nd, - hosted by Katch Astoria can be a fun option for "foliões". For those not willing to withstand the cold but still have the Carnaval fever, B.B. King Blues Club is hosting the Brazilian Carnival Party with Brasil Live this Sat., March 1st, with a set starting at 8pm and a following one at 10pm. You can find tickets here. Plus, there's always Miss Favela, a household name when it comes to Brazilian hangouts, which has already launched its Carnaval frenzy yesterday.

For those experiencing warmer winds south of the apple, Miami has a famous yearly Carnaval bash. It has already begun and it continues untill March 9th.
If you are still not satisfied, consider Austin. Its Brazilian Carnaval Celebration is still in diapers but the city did make a name for itself when it comes to music festivals and music culture so... One can bet on the fun and expect good odds.

The Rise of The Blocks

Breaking apart from the classic parades and parties, recent years became an age for the revival of the Blocos de Carnaval ( known here as Carnival Blocks). They are generally street bands and groups led by very particular characters and/or attached to specific themes, i.e, there's a Beatles themed one in Sao Paulo named Sargento Pimenta (Sgt. Pepper). Music-wise, these blocks usually refurbish old Carnaval standards called Marchinhas or devise modern takes on their respective regional music and customs.
Granted, there have always been major block action throughout the country, especially in the North and Northeast areas and smaller cities. The thing is, in the past couple of years, Carnival Blocks went full on mainstream having people flocking from everywhere to anywhere to see them, dance after them and party with them.
If you're in Rio, make sure to look for Cordão da Bola Preta and Bloco Virtual. In Salvador, find some time to check the blocks Camaleão and old schoolers Olodum. In Sao Paulo, besides the aforementioned Sargento Pimenta, Acadêmicos do Baixo Augusta and Cordão Carnavalesco Confraria do Pasmado might be fun choices. Should you find yourself in Recife, look for anything Frevo related.

It's important to remember that Carnaval is an extremely rich culture expression, therefore it has many slopes, all of them very particular and downright special in their own terms and features. There are many blocks, groups, bands, parties, events and parades not only within Brazil, but around the globe as well.
Keep an open mind, be safe and have fun.

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