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Samba Beats & Color Feasts

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Driving samba beats and vibrant color feasts flood the streets of Brazil every year, marking a weeklong celebration of liberating beauty known as Carnaval. Culturally cannibalistic in its all-encompassing scope, firsthand recollections of the festival's jubilant absurdity bring a radiant smile to the face of Brazilian native Artur Silva.

"I have fond memories of getting completely drunk and kissing multiple girls and throwing up and kissing some more girls. Those kinds of stories I think everyone has about Carnaval," said the Indianapolis artist. "Carnaval is the week in which everything will be forgiven. Everything that is done consensually, it will be forgiven later. It's really full of that feeling of liberation--the one moment that you're free to enjoy life in whatever way you want. "

Kyle Long's interest in bossa nova was sparked by hearing David Byrne's Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical compilation.
  • Kyle Long's interest in bossa nova was sparked by hearing David Byrne's Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical compilation.

A collaboration between Silva and DJ Kyle Long, Cultural Cannibals holds tight to its mission of "culture by any means necessary," coordinating cross-cultural events throughout the city aimed toward exposing Hoosiers to the world's vast array of colorful sophistications. Other artistically inclined CC endeavors include a streetwear fashion line and public displays of Silva's artwork.

On March 1, Cultural Cannibals presents Indy's biggest Brazilian Carnaval party at The Jazz Kitchen, giving Hoosiers a taste of one of the most celebrated parties in the world. The event will feature music from The IU Brazilian Ensemble (led by internationally renown percussionist Michael Spiro), samba dancers, Long playing a mix of Carnaval music from Brazil, Carnaval visuals by Silva, and much more. The Jazz Kitchen will step up its menu options for the night to offer traditional Brazilian food and drinks, and it'll present the Carnaval parades of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador on the big screens.

With his father being from Rio de Janeiro, Silva, who grew up and lived in Belo Horizonte (the capital city of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais) until he was 21, was exposed to the grand-scale celebration from an early age. Originated in Europe, Carnaval came into its own in Brazil after the liberation of the African slaves, Silva explained.

"Throughout Latin America, it became a celebration of freedom," he said. "In Brazil in particular, African culture began to be incorporated in Carnaval from the moment that they became free. It has a different meaning now than the European type of festivity that Carnaval used to be."

Silva's Brazilian heritage comes through in his artwork. He elaborated, "When people ask about the colors of my work, they are really asking about the colors of Brazil essentially." Incorporating additional Brazilian elements into each year's Indy Carnaval installment, Silva and Long are particularly looking to devote "more attention to the visuals this year."

Carnaval celebrations were an important part of Artur Silva's Brazilian childhood.
  • Carnaval celebrations were an important part of Artur Silva's Brazilian childhood.

"It's a time that you can be whatever you want to be, so we try and incorporate as many of these little things that will connect with the culture in Brazil and the culture of Carnaval -- the culture of the absurd," Silva said.

Initially drawn of bossa nova, a Brazilian genre of music fusing lyrical elements of samba and jazz, Long's interest in world music became an obsession upon his discovery of David Byrne's Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical compilation.

"This compilation album he put out just set me off on an obsession with not only Brazilian music, but music from around the world. But, particularly Brazilian music," Long said. "That David Byrne compilation is what did it, and I just took my interest in it to absurd levels."

Especially drawn to powerful percussion, the African influence on Brazilian culture comes through in the pulsating sounds of Carnaval, which will be represented by the 25-plus drummers performing with The IU Brazilian Ensemble. Although the ensemble will not be nearly as large as the "giant orchestras of drums" often seen in areas of Brazil, Long believes it will give listeners an accurate representation of these rhythmic Brazilian behemoths.

"There's nothing else like it in the world, and that's what's great about what we're able to do here with the Brazilian percussion ensemble from Bloomington is to give people a real slice of that," he said. "It's not 500 drummers, but it's 40 drummers in a small room and it really does give you a sense of how powerful that music is. If you get close enough, you can feel the waves of sound hitting your body."

Although the duo hopes to shed light on the various Carnaval expressions throughout Brazil's diverse regions, Silva admits the event may be most reminiscent of the festivities in Rio de Janeiro, due to his firsthand familiarity with the events there. From the type of samba that The IU Percussion Ensemble will be performing to the high-energy music Long will be deejaying with, Silva said this event will be generally more aligned with Rio's celebration than with any of the country's other festive hotspots.

Having seen many-a-dance-floors as a deejay, Long especially admires the freeing effect Brazilian music can have on dancers -- another liberating element that both he and Silva see in the traditional Carnaval hoopla.

"With samba and a lot of the other music associated with Brazil, it's just like a big giant party, like you're at some sort of rave or something," he said. "You just flop around, do whatever you do, and no one is going to blink an eye."

COURTESY OF CULTURAL CANNIBALS
  • Courtesy of Cultural Cannibals

Through their many all-inclusive, culturally enriching endeavors throughout the city, Silva and Long ultimately hope they can continue to improve the community with their fun-filled festivities.

"Traditionally when there have been Carnaval parties, it's been primarily marketed toward the Brazilian community, but what Artur and I are doing with Cultural Cannibals is trying to open it up to everybody," Long said. "I feel like events like this are kind of forcing, hopefully, that transition from this very isolated way of thinking, maybe opening [Hoosiers] up to the world and new concepts and hopefully breaking people out of this conservative mold that Indiana tries to force you into."

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