The block heats up every Carnival season when packs of merrymakers take to the streets in jumbled revelry, singing samba standards, banging on drums and pots and pans, blasting rock music from mobile sound systems and traipsing around in impromptu fancy dress and face paint.
These boisterous bunches – blocos – started as the precursors to the giant escolas de samba (samba schools) as we know them, and continue to pull in partiers not attracted to the flash-and-glam of the escolas, the glitzy production values at the Sambódromo, or the pretension of the upscale Carnival balls held at private clubs and hotels. In fact, unlike the more officially organised escolas, almost anyone can turn up to a bloco even after it has started and add a bit of personalised Carnival flair.
Where, when – and which?
You can find blocos all over town in the weeks running up to Carnival and throughout the Carnival itself, which runs from 8-10 February. For the funkiest, freshest bloco in town, the Acadêmicos do Baixo Augusta (follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/blocoaugusta) rock Bela Vista with their sunglass-wearing skull logo and hype atmosphere, having exploded in popularity since being formed three years ago by Rua Augusta nightspot Studio SP.
One of the most traditional – and irreverent – of the city’s blocos is Vai Quem Qué (pt-br.facebook.com/vaiquemquer), which meets up in Praça Benedito Calixto before bandying about the streets of Pinheiros and Vila Madalena.
For an interesting, culturally focused Carnival experience, Ilú Obá De Min (pt-br.facebook.com/pages/Ilú-Obá-De-Min) is an all-woman bloco embracing African and Afro-Brazilian elements. Parading through Santa Cecília and Centro to rhythmic drums and traditional chants, Ilú Obá runs educational workshops and presentations year-round.
Full bloco schedule
Acadêmicos do Baixo Augusta
The bloco has had a popularity boom since it started up three years ago, organised by the well-connected team behind Studio SP live music venues. One of the funkiest, freshest blocos in town, the Acadêmicos get into gear on Rua Augusta between Rua Marquês de Paranaguá and Rua Caio Prado and then head off towards Praça Roosevelt. 2pm. 2 Feb.
Banda do Candinho
The 31-year-old bloco hits the Bela Vista streets at 9pm, leaving from the corner of Rua Santo Antônio and Rua 13 de Maio. 9pm, 6 Feb.
Banda do Trem Elétrico
Originally formed by the city’s Metrô employees, this bloco leaves from Rua Augusta with Rua Luís Coelho, Consolação. 6.30pm, 8 Feb.
One of the oldest blocos kicks off its celebrations at 9pm at Rua Teodoro Baima, Centro. 9pm, 4 Feb.
Ilú Obá De Min
This all-woman Carnival bloco, known for embracing African and Afro-Brazilian culture, is one of the more interesting, culturally-focused Carnival street parties. Keep an eye out for the beautiful African costumes worn by the bloco members as they dance to the sounds of rhythmic drumming and traditional chants. Join them downtown on the Viaduto Major Quedinho viaduct. 7.30pm, 8 Feb.
Pholia na Luz
A group of thirteen blocos will head out over the course of two afternoons from downtown’s Praça da Luz. 3-8pm, 2 and 3 Feb.
Umes Cara Pintada
This bloco leaves Rua Rui Barbosa 323 in the old Italian neighbourhood of Bixiga. 5pm, 5 Feb.
Vai Quem Qué
Running for an impressive 32 years, Vai Quem Qué parades around the streets of Pinheiros to the sound of traditional marchinhas – lively Portuguese melodies played in the first Carnivals. The action starts at 8pm for four consecutive nights in Praça Benedito Calixto. 8pm, 9, 10, 11, 12 Feb.