Lights. Colors. Action! And even cameras of journalists from around the world! Kings... queens... and vassals, but also baianas and many other different people... . Almost like a movie. It could be fantasy. But it is not. It is reality. The fire works indicate that the show is beginning.
My ears hear the first sounds and rhythms coming from the bateria - the heart of the Samba School -, starting the parade, one of the Carnival's events, in Sambodromo. But you have to imagine 400 percussion instruments playing together, supporting one puxador de samba singing, and up to 5500 people - who integrate the School - dancing, singing and making body evolutions with a great diversity of fancy dresses. Certainly, it is impossible to keep still. Even the ground shakes. Here, I can help your imagination with an excerpt of a Samba from a Samba School.
Audio clip: Track 1 (mp3/455Kb)
'This Samba is named O Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil), and was presented by the
Samba School "Mocidade Independente in 1979, in the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro.
Editors note: The mp3.file is probably best played using the browser Microsoft Explorere. If using Netscape you probably have to save the audio-file to your computer before playing it.
The most important Brazilian popular profane party - the Carnival - is a very special event where music plays an important part. In truth, it is a moment in which a significant part of the whole country stops doing everything to live four days of fantasy and revelry - in a truly a collective catharsis - under the most incredible sonorous diversity and democracy. This is a time in which some of the social rules are suspended, the hierarchies are inverted, and the daily energies give place to the uninhibited search for joy and pleasure. It is easy to pass between reality and illusion.
But, this popular party assumes many different "faces" in the distinct Brazilian spaces and regions.
In the clubs, we can see people dancing, singing and jumping under the sound of the metal orchestra playing the specific Carnival music.
In different regions it reflects, in the streets, local aspects. In the parade, the most important figures from Brazil and from the historical world are presented by people with the funniest masks and clothes, mostly as an intellectual social criticism.
People can assume the identity they want and can live the life they would like to, in name of the Carnival, helped and supported by music. It is possible to embody all ages - babies with big feeding bottles and rubber nipples or old men with big pipes.
All states can be recreated - pregnant women with big breasts and bellies; men can become charming women, and the latter can be serious men, with their suits, glasses and canes.
Big funny dolls appear, representing the folklore of the region; enormous cooks; different animals, all the races, exotic characters... feathered figures: men provided with wings with fishes on their heads; men without wings really flying, helped by technology, and so on. Everything can be found...Almost everything is possible.
People can have a very distinct conception of time; the day can be confused with night and it can be lived as day.
But, what gives and maintains the collective state of catharsis? Certainly, the music - the repetitive rhythm that consumes people, incites them to dance, sing and jump.
The lyrics of music talk about everything: the History, politics, the moment, the economy, the environment, the most relevant personalities people want to criticize or, also, to render homage.
During these four days, people can embody their preferred personage without being considered crazy. And, day by day, while the party continues, people can exercise these different personalities, their different choices, their craziness and insanity, without being regarded as insane.
But from now on, I invite you to come with me to another space. This one, for the majority of the music therapists doesn't need imagination. Many among us, or even all of us music therapists have already been, as trainees or professionals, in a psychiatric hospital. This space is not so charming as the previous one and, here, joy is not the main feeling.
Here, the people's principal element is suffering.
But what is the similarity between a music therapy setting and the Carnival? Which elements can we consider as being common to both? It is not so difficult to answer this question. People and music bridge the two. And here we have to imagine what role music plays in these, on one hand, so different a setting, but, on the other hand, so similar.
There are Kings, Queens, and Emperors. Sometimes, even Jesus Christ is present. Masks or special clothes are unnecessary. It is the patient's reality. But to us it is fantasy.
They are excited, maniac, depressed. They live the time differently. They have no special effects but, among them, there are many well known personalities and they don't need the Carnival to live them. And the music is there. Through their lyrics they can sing their sadness, their joy, their insanity but also their hope, their feelings. The catharsis is supported by the repeated rhythm played obsessively by them. The instruments are the same - only not so sophisticated - , but they are played, sometimes, as if the patients were professionals.
And again I give you an idea of the Samba. This time composed by a patient and played by a group from a psychiatric hospital.
Audio clip: Track 2 (mp3/438Kb)
The group is called Mágicos do Som (Magicians of Sound) and is coordinated by Raquel Siqueira da Silva - Music Therapist and Psychologist. Here we have an arrangement because it is in a CD called Saude Musical (Musical Health). This CD was supported by the Health Municipal Secretary of Volta Redonda - RJ. The music is sang by Regina Lucia Serrao, the patient who composed this Samba named Preconceito (Prejudice). It is presented here with the composer and coordinator's approval.
They dance and they sing. They play their insanity. But, many times, they act and play their sanity or their possibility to be healthy, to be themselves, with no imaginary characters, with no nonexistent masks. Not playing other roles. But, only, living music, living the different possibilities which music gives to them!
So, we can find many similarities between the Carnival and Music Therapy in some settings, helped and supported by rhythm, melody and lyrics, that is, by music. In short, through its power and polisemic nature - it creates the possibility so one can live what he/she needs, or even almost everything, through it.
Baiana is an inhabitant of Bahia, a state in the North East of the country, where the African roots are the most important. Their clothes are ample with long skirts, turbans, necklaces and bracelets.
Bateria is a big group - 400 and even 500 people - playing exclusively percussion instruments in perfect harmony, which constitutes the rhythmic background of the Samba School.
Puxador de Samba is the man who sings the melody of the Samba - the only one who uses a microphone -, supported by the rhythm played by the bateria.
Sambodromo is the space built specifically for the parade of the Samba Schools in Rio de Janeiro. This special space can shelter up to 65.000 spectators.
Barcellos, Lia Rejane Mendes, 2002 Carnival and Music Therapy. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2002-carnival-and-music-therapy