Carnival: transforming sadness into joy to the beat of the samba
Let's explore what the samba really means to the Brazilians, and how the joie de vivre of Carnival not only swells the streets with music and dance but infects an entire nation with joy and laughter.
Cultural diversity is our signature tune at Techint E&C. The company is deeply rooted in all the places where it operates and is a meeting place for people of all nationalities who come together from across the world to make extraordinary projects a reality. This is a series of articles about our customs, roots, cultures and beliefs so that we not only get to know each other but also get closer to each other.
The most joyful and colorful time of the year is here. Carnival is all about catchy music and rhythms bursting from every doorway up and down the streets of every town in Brazil. Today, let’s listen to those cavaco guitars picking out chords to the beat of the tambourim while we take our first samba steps together with our colleague Iago Andrade Lancia. Iago works at the Parnaíba V project, a 385-MW thermoelectric power plant being built by Techint E&C in Santo Antônio dos Lopes, in the interior of Maranhão.
Brazil is one of the most musical countries on the planet, with samba perhaps the best known of its musical styles, a format fusing African rhythms with the strains of European melodies and plaintive melancholic lyrics. Music and dance are the pillars of the world-renowned Brazilian Carnival, a riotous festival of rhythm, color, tradition, history, sensuality and fun.
Iago is 29 years old and music has been running through his veins since he was tiny. His calloused fingers seem to have a life of their own when they strum the seven-string guitar, also known as the banjo, or cavaquinho. Iago studied music with his childhood friends and continues to play with them today. It's part of his identity, the thing that brings a smile to his lips.
“I have been playing for over fifteen years with my mates in a group called Pagode do Tigueis, so we hold these pagode or evening events with lots of fun, food and drink, and, of course, all that samba!” laughs Iago.
The pagode is the Brazilian term for informal gatherings of friends who get together to cook barbecues or feijoada, enjoy a capirinha or a beer, and play samba live—and hard. In recent years, pagode has also been identified with a musical offshoot of samba, mainly of the more romantic line.
Iago has been with Techint E&C for three years now and is currently working as a Production Coordinator. Despite his youth, he spent many years studying at music academies, requiring a lot of hard work and dedication to technique. “I think this training, when I was younger, helped to teach me about the importance of discipline in understanding musical processes and gave me the resilience to keep trying. Which is quite similar to what happens to me at work,” he adds. "After all, it takes months to learn to play a single piece and you need to practice it over and over again, figuring out how to improve your fingerwork to play those passages faster. So you’re always improving your technique."
The strength of music
When he gets back home after a long day at Techint, Iago finds relief in his guitar. “When I’m alone, I usually listen to or play pieces by our greatest musicians and teachers, such as Jacob do Mandolin, Villa-Lobos, Pixinguinha, Ventura Ramirez, Luizinho 7 Cordas, Radamés Gnatalli and many others. Basically, it’s mostly Brazilian instrumental works. I just completely switch off during these two or three hours a day and let myself enjoy the music, and it really lifts my mood!" he says.
That special Brazilian je ne sais quoi is intrinsic to its people’s music and dance, and its infectious rhythms transcend borders. You simply can’t resist tapping your foot when you hear a samba playing, whatever corner of the planet you might be in. "I think we have many young musicians today who play choro and samba as innate exponents of the richness of our musical tradition, true poets with a strong sense of harmony and rhythmic simplicity," he explains. And he adds: "Anyway, I believe that the strength of our music lies in the simplicity of our people and in the humility that inspires the act of transforming sadness into joy."