The street parties are the soul of the Carnival in Rio.
Blocos are groups of individuals who plan street parties during the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Their parties are much more casual than the parades in the Sambadrome. Each Bloco writes a theme song and has a band to play the Samba music. These groups gather in their local hangouts and play percussion music well into the early hours of the morning. Many of these Blocos have official T-shirts that anyone can purchase while at the Rio Carnival. The Blocos are considered the heart and soul of Rio Carnival and there are Blocos popular with singles, others that hold parties suitable for families and still other Blocos that are popular with gays.
In the late 1800s Cordoes were formed. These Cordoes were groups of people that organized parades throughout the city. Many of the groups played instruments and choreographed dances. As the Cordoes progressed they began to form bands in relation to their neighborhoods. These groups were the precursor of the Blocos. As a result they earned the name of Blocos.
Today the Blocos form their parades in specific neighborhoods. Each Bloco consists of a musical band and a group of partiers. The Blocos organize and run block parties during the year. The parades start as early as January and then run through the Sunday after the Carnival. While the Blocos parade in just about every neighborhood, the most popular neighborhoods for these parties are Copacabana, Leblon, Ipanema, Jardim Botanico and Lagoa as well as downtown. Many of these Blocos write their own theme songs and add classic samba songs to their repertoire. The Polka Dot Bloco (Cordao do Bola Preta) and Armpit of the Christ (Suvaco do Cristo) are two of the most popular Blocos. One of the oldest Blocos, Monobloco, is so popular that they actually play concerts year round.
In 2010 the government required the Blocos to register with the city. This met with a lot of resistance. One Bloco used the ferry ride from Rio de Janeiro to Niteroi as their parade route and they feared the government would never approve such a route. Officially 269 Blocos did register with the government and they will hold approximately 499 parades in 2014.
If a Bloco has brass instruments in their band they are called Bandas or Bands. When it is time for the parade the Blocos will rent a truck and the guitar players and singers ride on the truck playing their music. Most of the time the Blocos play samba but Bandas can play Marchinhas, a polka like music. Prior to the addition of samba to the Blocos parades Marchinhas was the only music played.
The largest Bloco is Cordao do Bola Preta and over 200,000 people will attend their street party. Simpatia e Quase Amor draws about 100,000 people to its celebration. Monobloco holds their party on Copacabana Beach and up to 80,000 revelers attends this Carnival party. These larger parties are held on Avenida Rio Branco, one of the largest streets in Rio and there is no other place that can accommodate such large parties. Spectators are invited to join in or if you prefer, watch from the stands that line the avenue.
Banda de Ipanema holds three different street parties. These parties are very popular with the gay crowd. This Bloco starts the Rio Carnival by drawing up to 30,000 people during its first two parties held the Saturdays just before Carnival. They have a 3rd party the Saturday of the Carnival week.
The Suvaco do Cristo Bloco holds their parade in the Jardim Botanico district. They were formed in 1985 by a group of friends. Every year they have their own Samba-enredo, a percussion section, a flag and flag bearer and a group of women who dress in Bahia clothing. Their colors are sliver, blue and green. They typically hold their parade the Sunday before the Carnival begins.
Monobloco has the honor of closing the Carnival. In 2009 there were 400,000 people that joined the 200 strong Monobloco band. Monobloco began in 2003 parading on Leblon beach. The band has 120 musicians and they play samba, coco, xote, congo and even Brazilian square dance and quadrilha music. Locals even enjoy attending their rehearsals in Lapa. This Bloco is very popular with young people.
Carmelitas Blocos host their parades in the district of Santa Teresa. The Carmelitas dress as nuns during their parties. Their parade tells the tale of a nun who escaped her convent to celebrate the Carnival. One of the oldest groups founded in 1918 is Cordao do Bola Preta. This band holds two parties as well as a black and white ball. Simpatia e Quase Amor launches their parade in Zona Sul. The parties are held the Saturday prior to the Carnival and on Sunday during the Carnival. This Bloco was formed in 1985 and named after a character in a popular Brazilian book.