SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) -- This city's residents are so obsessed with
carnival, they often wonder why theparty -- and the profits -- have to
end on Fat Tuesday.
The carnival in Salvador, Bahia's state capital, is already Brazil's biggest.
It draws 2 million people, including 800,000 tourists, to its streets and
generates $254 million in business.
Over the past 20 years, the celebration has grown into a $1.1 billion-
a-year industry, with Bahia exporting its carnival throughout the year to
Brazil's 27 state capitals.
Thanks to these "off-seasoncarnivals," it is now possible to celebrate
carnival somewhere in Brazil every two weeks.
But none of these smaller events compares to Bahia's six-day carnival,
which began Thursday. It costs the city $5.5 million, creates 160,000
temporary jobs, requires 25,000 police, fire and sanitation workers, and
shuts down 16 miles of roads in the centerof town.
Unlike Rio de Janeiro's four-day carnival, where thousands of costumed
revelers and hundreds of floats parade through a stadium, Bahia's carnival is
low on glitter and takes place in the streets.
If Rio de Janeiro's carnival, 750 miles to the southwest, is pure spectacle,
Bahia's carnival is a full-contact sport, with teaming masses heaving and
pulsing to the rhythms of the more than 100 carnival groups, or "blocos."
The blocos range in style from samba-reggae to the "afoxes," whose rhythms
are inspired by the Afro-Brazilian religion, candomble.
But most popular of all are the "trio eletricos," electric guitar-driven
bands that play
six-hour-long sets from atop enormous sound trucks. The trios, nowadays with
upward of six musicians, play "axe," a tirelessly optimistic music played over a
reggae-inflected samba rhythm.
The trios make their money charging revelers as much as $275 for the right
accompany the band over the course of three days inside a specially cordoned-off
area where a second truck provides bathrooms and a bar. A successful trio might
earn as much $110,000 during carnival.
"The cordon turns the whole street into a ballroom," said Andre Silveira,
of the directors of the popular trio Banda Eva.
Yet the high cost of maintaining a trio is a major reason for the rise
"We play on the smallest and most expensive stage in the world, so it only
makes sense that we use it as much as possible," said Bell Marques, lead
singer for the hugely popular band Chiclete com Banana.
And because most of the trios that play around the country are based in
Bahia, the tax revenues help offset carnival's cost.
Municipal Finance Secretary Jorge Lins says the city sees only a small
fraction of what it spends on carnival return in direct tax revenues. But Lins
said the city probably breaks even after factoring in carnival's indirect
"It's a postcard for Bahia, and how can you put a price on that?"
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.