What is a Bloco?
A carnival bloco is the group that one joins to "parade" through the streets of Salvador behind a trio elétrico, an enormous amplified truck complete with a band on top. To join a bloco, one buys an abadá (shirt) which allows one to enter a protective corded area roped off around the trio elétrico.
Joining a bloco allows you to follow a particular band through the crowded streets of Salvador. It's also a great place to meet people; in the four to six hours it takes for a carnival bloco and its trio to run the carnival circuit, you can meet and dance with as many new friends as your tired feet permit. Conversely, without the abadá, one can't join the bloco nor enter the corded area, and if you're not in the corded area, good luck trying to follow a particular band! Chances are you won't make it more than a couple of steps before you're engulfed by carnival's frenetic masses. On the busier nights, it's said that more than a million people are out in the streets and when a popular trio passes with its enormous bloco in tow, those outside its protective cord are likely to get swept away by a tidal wave of humanity.
Click here to see this year's Blocos, Salvador Carnival Blocos
What is a Trio elétrico?
In essence, the trio elétrico is a mobile sound stage. Imagine a large 18-wheel freight truck stacked wall to wall with powerful amplified speakers carrying a sonic load upwards of 100,000 watts. Now picture the top of the truck as a large stage complete with a 'catwalk' for the singer and some background dancers. Well, you know what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Why is it called a Trio-Elétrico?
The Trio elétrico dates back to 1951 when two Bahian musicians, Dodo and Osmar, hooked some electric speakers up to an old Ford Model T and took to the streets of Carnival. Up until that point, carnival bands had always walked the circuits with their carnival blocos and fans in tow. This carnival duet became the "Trio Elétrico" - that's the name they gave themselves - when they added fellow musician Temístocles Aragão to the mix. With time, the term Trio elétrico has come to refer to any amplified sound vehicle on the carnival circuit. These days, the carnival legacy of Dodô and Osmar is carried on by Osmar's son Armadinho who is an accomplished cavaquinho player himself (the cavaquinho is a small Brazilian guitar). He'll be out during carnival, so if you hear this famous carnival tune being played on an electric cavaquinho that's probably him.
What is the Support Car?
The popular blocos are so big now, and have so many people parading with them, up to 8,000 members, that one trio isn't enough to carry the show and so they've added a carro de apoio, or support car, that follows behind the principal trio elétrico which hosts the band. The support car is also amplified; it's a huge mobile speaker that carries the band's sound to those far behind the lead trio. Also, it houses the amenities that its thousands of revelers will need: bathrooms, a bar, a medical assistance post, and even room on the top for those who want to experience carnival from on high. To get a spot on top of the support car, you need to buy a VIP abadá. If you thought the regular abadá was expensive, wait until you see how much it costs you to be a VIP!
Tips for parading with the Blocos:
- Wear tennis shoes instead of sandals. Trust me, when the singer of your bloco starts urging everyone to sair do chão (get off the ground), you better not be barefoot!
- If your bloco is making its carnival run during the day, lather up with sun lotion before going out. Sunstroke and carnival don't mix well.
- Get something to eat before you hit the circuit, but don't eat too much. There's a reason the term pipoca (popcorn) is part of the carnival lexicon; with all the jumping around you're about to do, you'll be much better off with something light in your stomach.
- Stay hydrated. Even if you're on an alcohol diet, due yourself a favor and drink some water every once in a while.