The Carnatal is here! That is, Natal’s carnival – Natal is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. Strictly speaking, we are dealing here with a micareta (a carnival that takes places outside the carnival period). It is the largest of such carnivals in the whole of Brazil, gathering more than one million people during four days of non-stop partying. It is the fourth largest carnival in Brazil (after Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Salvador de Bahia) and the one that brings together the biggest amount of baiano artists (not counting Salvador’s carnival, of course).
If you are keen on experiencing a carnival in Brazil, the Carnatal is an excellent option: not as overcrowded as the most popular carnivals, much safer, and considerably cheaper.
The Carnatal is very much like a smaller version of the Salvador de Bahia carnival. It has nothing to do with Rio and São Paulo carnivals. In Natal the dominant rhythm is axé – from Bahía, although a new fussion of axé baiano and forró nordestino, known as forroaxé, is becoming increasingly popular.
Photograph by Humberto Lopes, reproduced with permission.
WHEN DOES IT TAKE PLACE?
This year the Carnatal will take place between 29 November and 2 December. Its dates usually coincide with the first weekend in December and the Thursday and Friday previous to that.
WHERE DOES IT TAKE PLACE?
The Carnatal parades along a 3.5 km circuit that begins and ends in the Avenida Prudente de Morais. The artists perform on top of gigantic juggernauts [trucks], with larger than life loudspeakers on its sides.
HOW CAN I TAKE PART?
There are four different ways you can take part in the Carnatal: the bloco, the camarotes, the arquibancada and the pipoca. For the first three you need to buy a sleeveless t-shirt (abadá) in advance. It’s your passport to the Carnatal.
- bloco: to be able to parade along a bloco you need an abadá. A bloco is a group of people with the same shirt parading along the same trio elétrico. The price of the abadás for the best blocos is expensive. All blocos have their own security staff. The trio elétrico is followed by a support truck with bars from where drinks are served (drinks are usually free for the members of the bloco), toilets and medical assistance. You need to be physically fit to take part in a bloco, after all, it’s a minimum of 10.5 km of non-stop jumping and dancing. There will be 9 blocos this year: bloco Nana Babana, bloco Cerveja & Coco, bloco Eva, bloco Bicho, bloco Cajú, bloco Me Leva, bloco Burro Elétrico, bloco Aviões Elétrico y bloco Cidadão Nota 10.
- camarotes (= boxes). Though there are small boxes, usually hired by companies or private individuals for a minimum of 20 people, there are large boxes open to those who have bought a ticket for them. This year there will be three large camarotes: SkolBeat, Donna Donna y Cabo Fox. They have bands playing between the passage of one trio elétrico and the following one, a closed space with a DJ where you can dance electronic music, several bars with free drinks, and a few food stands (in some camarotes food is free). One side of each box faces the circuit; from there you can watch the trios elétricos and the blocos parading. The camarote is where more foreigners are seen.
- arquibancada (= stands): stands found along the circuit. Family atmosphere and very few foreigners. The t-shirts that give access to the stands are affordable, approximately 30 Brazilian reais per day. The stands are usually crowded. Chemical toilets are found.
- pipoca: it’s the Carnatal on the street, outside the boundaries of the official parade; for that reason, it is free. Not recommended for foreigners, as the big crowds draw a few bad characters along.
Prices are approximate and tend to increase as the dates of the Carnatal approach.
The following artists have had their presence at the Carnatal confirmed: Ivete Sangalo, Chiclete com Banana, Asa de Águia, Babado Novo, Margareth Menezes, Timbalada, Araketu, Jammil e Uma Noites, Ricardo Chaves, Thábata, Lane Cardoso, Banda Eva, Netinho, Capilé and the forró groups Aviões do Forró and Cavaleiros do Forró.
- wear comfortable clothing, Bermuda shorts or jeans, and tennis shoes (no flip-flops/thongs or shoes)
- leave your ID at the safe of your hotel; just take a photocopy along with you
- bring only the amount of money you reckon you will need for the day, and keep it in a safe place. Be discreet when you handle your money
- don’t let alcohol ruin the party for you.
The official website of the Carnatal ocassionally broadcasts the event life. What follows here is a promotional video of the Carnatal.
P.S.: the merit of this entry belongs to Ke_rule, a blog reader who fell in love with Natal.