How a beat-up Ford launched a musical revolution that swept Brazil’s Carnival

RIO DE JANEIRO –

The sound begins to rattle eardrums and rattle bones even before the speakers approach, hauled by large trucks making their way through the Brazilian Carnival crowds.

The gigantic sound trucks known as electric trios are a Brazilian innovation that amplified the music and effectively eliminated front row seats, making Carnival more accessible. In the seven decades since they first hit the streets of Brazil, they have become a fixture of the country’s annual pre-Lent festivities, drawing millions of people to the streets. Singer Caetano Veloso’s ode to the vehicles that shook the earth proclaimed that the only people not following them must be dead by now.

From Salvador, on Brazil’s northeast coast, the trio spread throughout the country and found more disciples; An Instagram account that posts seemingly banal videos from the country’s platforms has around 150,000 followers, with fans praising the merits of each trio. They have become increasingly sophisticated and larger, with lights, LED screens, changing rooms and VIP areas.

Its appeal has never been just the novelty of amplification. Its steady, steady advance meant that anyone, rich or poor, could get close enough to the music to feel it throbbing in their body, said Isaac Edington, who coordinates Salvador’s festivities as president of its tourism agency.

Helen Salgado, a 31-year-old actress, traveled to Salvador from Rio to immerse herself in the oceans of people moving in trios in the celebrations before the official start of Carnival on Saturday. She said that she reached ecstasy without consuming a single drop of alcohol.

“It was very loud…and wonderful!” Salgado said over the phone, laughing. “I think that’s why there is so much frenzy: the sound dominates you and intoxicates you.”

But long before these walls of sound took Brazil by storm, there was already a Ford.

It was a 1929 Model A, the lesser-known successor to the Model T, imported from the United States to Salvador. For years, metallurgist Osmar Macedo used the convertible to transport iron.

In 1950, Osmar, as he is universally known, and his friend Dodô, a radio technician and fellow amateur musician, equipped the Ford with two speakers and connected his guitar and cavaquinho to the car’s battery, Aroldo Macedo told The Associated. , son of Osmar. Press. They drove the car, with its fender dented and maroon paint peeling, through the streets playing music and delighting Carnival revelers who jumped and danced behind them, said Macedo, 65.

The duo repeated the trick the following year, this time with a third musician, and called themselves Trio Eletrico.

The term was maintained and applied to all mobile stages that circulated through Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia. Soon, trios became the centerpiece of the city’s Carnival.

They began by introducing Bahia’s best artists, like Veloso, who boarded one built especially for him in 1972 that looked like a spaceship. They became launching pads for the careers of musicians, including Daniela Mercury, Ivete Sangalo and Margareth Menezes, Brazil’s current culture minister, who called the trio “one of Brazil’s great inventions.”

“It was a great revolution in the town’s Carnival, the street Carnival,” Menezes said by phone from Salvador, where he is preparing the Culture Trio that will present it along with Gilberto Gil and Chico César. “Everyone wants to shake to the sound of the electric trio.”

That popular spirit is at the heart of Carnival, which is not just about letting loose; It also represents the subversion of the established order and the traveling street parties are a manifestation of the people taking control of the city.

Salvador’s trios were a guiding light for Rio when street parties resurfaced after Brazil abandoned its military dictatorship in 1985, according to Rita Fernandes, president of the Sebastiana association that organizes some of the city’s most traditional parties.

Rick Mello’s Rick Sound provides trios for more than two dozen street parties in Rio and also rents trucks to samba schools rehearsing for the traditional Sambadrome parade. There were 11 trios shoehorned into his warehouse in January, and he says he can’t conduct full sound checks inside because the clamor, which reaches up to 180 decibels, could burst an eardrum.

“Compared to Bahía, this is a Volkswagen Beetle,” Mello said, referring to its largest truck, which has 60 speakers. “But one day we will get there.”

Perhaps the best known of all the trios was the Dragon. The Salvadoran band Asa de Aguia performed on top of the truck for years and immortalized it in song as “the biggest electric trio on the planet.”

But the Dragon was a problem. Its 30 meters (98 ft) length made cornering a feat, and at 5.5 meters (18 ft) tall, it often caught on power lines and knocked down utility poles when traveling to Rio or Sao Paulo. for concerts, according to José Mario Bordonal. whose company bought it a decade ago.

Bordonal and his brothers founded their company to build sound trucks in their small hometown in the rural interior of Sao Paulo, Cravinhos.

His first trio upset the order of things about 35 years ago, with a wild street party for the working class that attracted even the wealthy to forgo a private Carnival evening, Bordonal said. The police and the organizer of the evening were furious.

About a quarter of a century later, the Dragon caused a new uproar.

“When he got to Cravinhos… he entered the first street and knocked down two posts immediately,” Bordonal said.

He modified the Dragon’s axles to make cornering easier and reduced its height, but extended its length to 34 meters (111 ft). Bordonal eventually sold it and has since formed a larger trio whose 200 speakers rocked the biggest street party of Sao Paulo’s Carnival season on Feb. 4, and has plans for an even bigger one.

But Salvador’s vast fleet makes it an unrivaled kingdom. During this year’s Carnival, up to 70 people will lumber through the crowd each day, Edington said. Rio has about that amount throughout Carnival, according to its tourism agency.

In a tribute to the trios’ ancestors, the Salvador trio’s two main routes are named after Osmar and Dodô, and a replica of their Ford appears atop one of the gigantic platforms.

Closing the circle on the imported Ford that became Brazil’s first trio, singer Claudia Leitte is in the process of sending a trio to the United States.

Leitte, who once sang on top of a trio for seven hours straight, intends to bring a Salvador-style Carnival to Miami’s Ocean Drive.

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