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!
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 about Banda de Ipanema. An interview with Ziraldo, one of the founders, was the icing on the cake.
In February 1959 deginer Ferdy Carneiro rented a bus and went with his Carioca friends to spend Carnival in his hometown Ubá, in neighborhing state of Minas Gerais.
The main attraction was a street band named Philarmonica Embocadura. It came with a front comission of men dressed in white suits and straw hats pretending to play musical instruments.
How Everything Began
A few years later friends Ferdy, Albino and Claudio Pinheiro, Jaguar, Ziraldo and Zelio, Hugo Bidet, Roniquito Chevalier got together and decided to the something in that spirit only in the streets of Ipanema. 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 around 500. When they returned to Praca General Osorio they had made history. Ipanema residents were never informed about the happening, but when they heard the band pass by they simply came out of their apartments and houses and marched along!
And 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 didn't give him any attention he would produce from his pocket a paper with the misterious 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.
How and When the Band 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. The gathering spot is around Praca General Osorio. The band heads to the beach lane Av. 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.
People start arriving at the square around 4-5 p.m. and around 6 the live band starts playing Rio de Janeiro's anthem Cidade Maravilhosa. You will hear all the Carnival classics, including old Carmen Miranda hits. Locals know the words and sing along.
The band always plays the song Carinhoso as it passes by Igreja Nossa Senhora da Paz, the church at the corner of Av. Joana Angelica. It is a homage to Pixinguinha, the composer died in the church while attending a baptism on Carnival day.
The band creates a delicious chaos as it makes its way down the
well-manicured streets of Ipanema. There is a lot of planning
involved, and the police is always there to help divert traffic.
You may even escape from the beer vendors pushing carts at warp
speed, but it's impossible to dodge the hordes frenzied drag
queens. If for some reason you are picked out, relax and enjoy the fun!
Can I Join In?
Duuuh... People come from everywhere to spend summer weekends in Ipanema. The hot samba beat works like a magnet, and beach-goers soon join in. There aren't any barricades or partitions to separate the public. Wear your bathing trunks, an elaborate costume, a g-string and a mask ... whatever you fancy. You won't be breaking any dress codes, and there will surely be someone else who went a little above, below or beyond. You may even get away with almost complete nudity, as long as you have on some creative body paint (plus a bodyguard to shoo away more enthusiastic onlickers).
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, cartoonists Ziraldo and Jaguar, and the eternal Ipanema icon Leila Diniz (the first muse) and actress Elke Maravilha are among the people who made this band a legend.
Each year the band has a different godmother or godfather. It's some local personality that will be waving hands from one of the few floats. This is not the main attraction, though. The action happens in the street. If you like to plan ahead check our Carnaval Date Finder. For photos visit "The Drags from Ipanema", and visit our page on Facebook! We picked out this video from our collection to give you a better idea of what to expect!
Bonus Video - Banda de Ipanema Parade