It’s a relatively easy decision to make, to take your students to Brazil, once you are offered gigs in Rio de Janeiro’s top venues. Following a successful Olympic collaboration between Rhythms of the City (City University’s own carnival group) and two of Rio’s most popular street carnival big-hitters: Monobloco and Sargento Pimenta, the return leg was going to be more fun than playing in the rain on top of a routemaster, as we had for the Lord Mayor’s show. No sign of carnival spirit there.
Rio was unsurprisingly altogether different. A 30 strong group of half City teachers, alumni, current undergrads and postgrad, with players from other London institutions making up the numbers, spent one month in workshops, and interaction with every level of musical life in the worlds party capital. It would have been enough to play the 2 shows offered, but by the time word got round, more opportunities came our way to exhibit our skills, playing with traditional samba schools (favela based community carnival organisations), in parties, in the street and on stage. There were also interviews and features in O Globo and elsewhere in the media, our name also being carried forward by blocos (carnival bands) who are playing our arrangements.
The icing on the cake came when, following a masterclass with the city’s most revered samba percussion director (Odlion Costa) and top carnival percussion judge (Sergio Naidin), Odlion invited us to perform for the community at his samba school, Uniao da Ilha do Governador, on the night before our departure. This was an honour beyond our dreams, and we became the first UK group to play at a samba school, hitting it with funky motown covers alongside local classics. 2nd Year music student, Yazzmin Newell, became an instant celebrity as she leapt from the band to display her amazing samba dance skills at the community’s Saturday night ball.
Hopefully, the 10,000+ who caught our performances over the month will spread the word before we inevitably return.
Can’t make it to Rio? check www.rhythmsofthecity.com for performances closer to home.
— Barak Schmool
Throughout the duration of this trip, 2nd year music student, Rebbecca Neofitou also wrote a trio of blogs for Songlines Magazine, the only world music magazine in the UK, following her internship there before Christmas. The blog became a feature that online readers could follow and keep up to date with Rhythms of the City’s growing success whilst in Rio de Janeiro. These can be found here: