By Janet Tappin Coelho
Samba dancers and musicians from Rio’s world-renowned carnival appeared to take a leaf out of Notting Hill carnival’s book this year by taking to the streets to entertain over 400,000 spectators.
For the first time in the history of the annual Brazilian festival, all the top 13 schools from the special carnival group paraded along Copacabana Beach on Saturday night (6 January).
The unprecedented show came as a surprise to locals and tourists, as the procession was only announced just over a week ago.
Billed as Encontra do Samba or Samba Meet-Up, the schools put aside rivalry and competition for the night and held a mega samba party on the road ending up on a stage in front of the iconic Copacabana Palace Hotel.
The session, aimed at promoting tourism ahead of the official bacchanal which starts next month, brought together nearly a thousand percussionists making it the largest drum troupe in the world.
The schools were joined by Petrobras Symphony Orchestra in a blending of strings and horns with rhythmic samba beats.
The Copacabana street parade gave a vibrant taste of what’s to come at this year’s Rio Carnival which takes place between February 9 to 13, with the major schools showcasing in the Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai, the purpose-built parade venue.
As the procession hit the streets, organisers Riotur confirmed private investment totalling 35 million reais (£8 million) will ensure the 2018 Rio Carnival will be a fully funded spectacle.
In June last year, Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella, made the shock announcement that multi-million pound funding for the world’s biggest party would be slashed in half as the authority was facing a huge financial crisis and couldn’t afford to foot the total bill of 24 million reais (£5.5million).
With the threat of cancellation or the prospect of a much-diminished show hanging over the Rio Carnival, Riotur announced at the end of last year, it had secured sponsorship from private investors Ambev, Uber and Dream Factory.
Marcelo Alves, president of Riotur said: “The 13 schools in the special group will receive 27.5 million reais (£6.3million) which represents an increase of 3.5 million reais (£800,000) compared to the contributions from previous years.
“Our mission is to ensure the show is presented around the world, reducing public investment and attracting potential investors for the festival.
“We have already achieved the desired outcome, but we will not stop here. We will continue to seek further investment to make sure this continues to be the greatest show on earth,” he said while vowing to lock the street parade into the annual calendar as a fixed event.
He said: “The samba schools and everyone should be congratulated. The parade was a huge success, it had all the grandeur and pomp that made it a thrilling samba encounter. We have to have this every year now.”
According to reports, the Mayor, who was noticeably absent at the 2017 Rio Carnival, was present at the weekend’s street parade and was positively ‘moved’ and ‘enthralled’ by it.
Mr Crivella is said to have played a key role in scheduling and authorising the Copacabana Beach samba parade which was seen as a natural extension to the New Year’s Day festivities.