The first time Banda de Ipanema took over the streets was in 1965. Brazil was under a military dictatorship, and rumour is that their intelligence was quite intrigued by the band's motto - YOLHESMAN CRISBELES. And what does it mean? Absolutely nothing!
Banda de Ipanema has a lot of visibility for several reasons. Tradition. tolerance, location, and a passionate committment of organizers and regulars. The prestigious band and the lack of a vocalist turns everyone into a participant. Cariocas learn Carnaval songs since they are children.
Because of the cultural profile of Ipanema, this is an event where people of all ages get together to celebrate. We are joined by fellow Brazilians from other States, and visitors from all over the world. You will feel welcome and tempted to join the fun. Street Carnaval in Rio went through an upgrade in safety and infrastructure.
How Banda de Ipanema Operates
You have three chances to join Banda de Ipanema every year. The first one is Saturday two weeks before Carnival, opening Rio's street festivities. Later there's Carnival Saturday and Tuesday. And Bandinha, for children, on Monday. The gathering spot is at Praca General Osorio.
The band heads to the beach lane Ave. Vieira Souto all the way to cross-street Rua Joana Angelica. It takes a right turn on main street Rua Visconde de Pirajá and marches back to Praca General Osorio. The concentration starts around 4 p.m. and the band starts marching around 5:30 p.m.
In many ways Banda de Ipanema was responsible for the rebirth of Street Carnaval in Rio. They follow the same formula for decades. There are no vocalists, we count on revelers to sing along the popular sambas, marchinhas and traditional Carnaval songs.
The band itself marches in the back, preceded and followed by revelers. Parades open and close with Cidade Maravilhosa, the anthem of Rio de Janeiro. As the Banda passes by Igreja Nossa Senhora da Paz there is a moment of silent and then everyone sings along Carinhoso, a lovely song by Pixinguinha.
Can I join in?
Of course you can! We actually expect you to! Since its conception Banda de Ipanema counts on the participation of everyone who loves Carnaval and fun. The band itself is cordonned off by security, but there is nothing between revelers and people who are just watching and taking photos.
People interact, and even if you look grouchy you may be approached by someone in a costume. If you are in a costume and you look good enough strangers will ask to pose with you. And put their arm on your shoulder as if you were old frends. If the though of this makes you cringe, stay home.
Banda de Ipanema is a family affair without any prejudices. Parents take their children - including babies - to join the fun on their laps or piggybacking (the gang on the first floor). More mature Cariocas never fail to attend, either. There are people in all age groups.
The bulk of revelers are residents and visitors mostly in costumes or wearing fun accessories. And ahead of Banda there is a special group that meets and greets - including many drag queens. They dress up and look fabulous, interact with everyone including tourists, adding a touch of glamour and diversity. Even children love them!
Is Banda de Ipanema gay?
The short answer is no. Do not make any assumptions. Cross-dressing is part of Carnaval tradition. Impersonating characters, too. We never question anyone's orientation as it is none of our business. Respect to diversity and tolerance are Ipanema trademarks since back in the day.
None of the lovely people who meet and greet are paid - it is a call, really. We know them by name, some are friends, and without their presence it would not be as much fun. Do not take liberties, yet do not take it seriously if you are spotted by a fun group and handcuffed, or dragged to participate in some crazy dance!
There are groups of young people - boys only, girls only, or mixed. Again this does not have any relation to their orientation. Friends party together, go in groups of coordinated costumes, and they may mingle and flirt. If it happens to you and you are not interested, be polite. Respect is a two-way street.
Younger generation Ipanemenses are so not worried about this issue that sometimes they say bluntly that they are hetero or gay, no hard feelings. As to costumes, they may be anything from a ready to wear kit to a handmade gem with rhinestones and sequins, a stunning headpiece. Pure applied art!
Safety and Practical Issues
Street Carnaval in Rio grew by leaps and bounds. Currently there are over 450 Blocos authorized to march every Carnaval. And the city is doing a serious effort to deal with it. Monobloco, for instance, attracts over a million people. Without our tradition of hosting giant events, we would be at a loss.
Banda de Ipanema is medium-sized. On Carnaval days it may attract 20 to 30 thousand people. To avoid dammage to this mostly residential neighborhood, street gardens are protected with temporary fences. A number of restroom stations are installed. Again this is improving - now there are also pissoirs.
In return we expect that everyone follows the etiquette. Nobody will be shocked by any costume you wear. We've seen everything, and them some. Be friendly and polite to strangers. There are alcoholic drinks for sale and you should know your limits... Hold your liquor and mind the lines at restrooms.
In addition to an improvement in security provided by the police and the municipal guard, there are also fining people for littering. And if you decide to water a tree you may be arrested. Violence is almost unheard of, but there may be pickpockets, who eventually get caught. Be street smart, not paranoid.
Who is in Charge?
Banda de Ipanema has three directors: Eduardo Mendes, Claudio PInheiro (on the photo), and Josť Ruy Dutra. I had the opportunity to meet Albino Pinheiro, the President of Banda until 1999. He is still the honorary president and all parades carry a sign saying "Albino Pinheiro, presente."
In 2014, the 49th annivesary and 50th parade, Banda de Ipanema paid a tribute to its founders. In 2015 it's the 450th anniversary of Rio - and our 50th anniversary, too! Banda de Ipanema now has an official website, and a page on Facebook. They have all our support, we share the same passion! Check them out.
Banda de Ipanema History
This irreverent spirit and about thirty original founders are to blame for the first event. Looking from a historical perspective they were somehow responsible for the rebirth or Rio de Janeiro's unique Street Carnival Festivities.Banda de Ipanema was declared part of the city's cultural heritage in 2004.
While I was getting my degree in Tourism I did an extensive research on everything Banda de Ipanema. An interview with Ziraldo, one of the founders, was the icing on the cake. There are many versions, and none of them are totally official. Degraus de Ipanema by Ruy Castro, is a great source.
In February 1959 designer Ferdy Carneiro rented a bus and invited his Carioca friends to spend Carnival in his hometown Ubá. The main Carnaval attraction in this small town in Minas Gerais was a street band named Philarmonica Embocadura.
They marched with a front comission of men dressed in white suits and straw hats pretending to play musical instruments. The percussion band marched in the back and everyone in the middle danced and sang along like there was no tomorrow. A few years passed, but the memories lingered on. Why not bring this to Rio?
The First Parade in 1965
Friends Ferdy, Albino and Claudio Pinheiro, Jaguar, Ziraldo and Zelio, Hugo Bidet, Roniquito Chevalier and others got together, and decided to the something in that spirit, only in the streets of Ipanema. There are complete lists, and they are all different - and even a documentary about the theme.
They hired the band of the Navy School, and gathered at the door of legendary bar Jangadeiros, around Praca General Osorio.The parade started on February 18, 1965 with dozens of people, and when they reached Velloso (later renamed Bar Garota de Ipanema) they were already 500.
When they returned to Praca General Osorio they had made history. Ipanema residents were never informed about the happening, but as they heard the band pass by they simply came out of their apartments and houses and marched along! Ipanemense actress Leila Diniz was the first muse.
A lot of faces came and went, but some people definitely helped give Banda de Ipanema its identity. Twins Laura and Delia Carvalho, that marched with the band until they were eighty years young. Other special guests include Tom Jobim, Zezé Mota, Grande Otelo, Elke Maravilha, Jamelão...
If you're curious about the crazy moto, legend is that there was a bible salesman that used to hang out at the Central do Brazil station. He kept saying that the Final Judgement was coming, and when people stopped paying attention he would say the ominous words Yolhesman Crisbeles.
It was enough to make anyone start walking faster, but Ferdy Carneiro saw the scene, found it very funny, and took note of the words. Why? Well, he just did. And kept the paper with the cryptic words. They decided to use this as the motto, and according to legend it roused suspicions on the military government!
Bonus Video - Banda de Ipanema Parade
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