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Mr Bongo At Salvador Carnival - Part One

It was officially Carnaval in Brazil over the weekend just gone.  The memories have been flooding back, so Jane Cudworth has recounted some of her carnival experiences in Salvador, Brazil from her trip in 2007:

Waaay back in 2007, the Bongo’s descended on the Salvador Carnival with a mission. That mission was to get involved. We had heard tales of a group of Brazilian’s who dressed up as Gandhi for carnival, wearing beads, robes and turbans and, we imagined, embarked on a spritual journey of sorts. What we found, and fully embraced, was the Filhos and Filhas de Gandhy (Gandhi) movement and what it lacked in sprituality, it certainly made up for in fun.

Dave and Graham were to take part as Filhos (sons) and myself and my friend Indi were to be Milhas (daughters) of Gandhy. We were the first ever western girls to be allowed on the float and procession and so felt hugely honoured and a certain sense of responsibility.

On the first day as we turned up for our costumes fittings, I admit us girls were picturing something along the lines of the standard sexy be-jewelled, feather-covered, carnival numbers and were slightly dismayed to find our outfits were a little more ‘Karate Kid’ than ‘Carnival Queen’. 

My lasting memory is the majestic sight of a sea of stunning Afro-Brazilian faces in pure white costumes blocking up the streets of Salvador, with a few little pasty gringo faces staring out – Bongos!

We were taken under the wing of the Filhas who, once accepting of our presence, looked after us with great care. They helped us perfect our percussion instruments on the wobbly float that careered into electricity cables on the cobbled streets and kept us away from the less desirable streets, blocos (carnival groups) and the military police, who they warned were the most dangerous of all to encounter. Instead of being hassled whilst dressed as Gandhy’s, we found that strangers often, most likely for the first and only time in our lives, bowed in front of us. We liked it.

The Gandhy men were not backward in coming forward and perform a ritual of hooking-in girls they like the look of with their rosary of beads, spraying them with an odd soapy perfume they carry in a bottle, then launching in for a kiss. Actually, calling it a kiss sounds a lot more romantic than it was, lets just call it a forceful embrace. Some got a bit bitey.

After day 3, we were exhausted from all the sugary caipirinhas, the heat, the mauling and the laughter and decided enough was enough. On travelling back into Salvador however, the infectious sound of the drums from every corner would get under your skin and you would want to be back out there, sweating with the best .

It was a wonderful, hot, loud, passionate, crazy, beautiful, scary experience and without a doubt the most fun I have ever had in 3 days.

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