It’s a sunny Friday afternoon in Zona Norte (North Zone), Rio de Janeiro. Thushan, Brian and I have just had the fortune of meeting the Velha Guarda da Mangueira, a samba outfit comprised of 10 of the most senior members of Rio’s Mangueira samba school.
I first saw the Velha Guarda perform in 2003 at a free show in Salvador, Brazil and the magical memories of that night – without question the best concert I’ve ever witnessed – have remained vivid in my mind.
This time around, however, our more personal visit to the Velha Guarda has turned out to be less than magical. Perhaps it was the lack of a typical audience participation that made the group appear flat during our brief private set. Or maybe old age has finally taken its toll on this group of master musicians.
Content to have met the group and visit them in their home rehearsal space we begin thanking the musicians and start preparing for our departure.
Then the question comes: “You wanna have a beer down on the corner?” asks Josimar. Not particularly in the mood to drink and anxious to get in some much needed beach time before the sun goes down I debate how I can respectfully decline his offer.
“Come on! Let’s go have one. Just one. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.” Josimar assures us.
“OK, but do you think we’ll make it back in time to catch the sunset on Ipanema?” I ask.
“Sure,” Josimar replies, “The sooner we drink this beer, the sooner you’ll make it to the beach.”
I give in and we head over to a tiny bar on the street. I assume that our party will consist of just Thushan, Brian, Josimar and I, but the bar owner quickly starts lining up plastic tables one after another, setting out chairs for a group of 15. (more…)