“Carnival” encompasses a lot of things—dancing, costumes, parades and contests. And with Ash Wednesday now behind us, the results are in.
Several of the largest, most famous Carnivals came to an end Wednesday, including many across the Caribbean like Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the famed samba celebrations down in Brazil and, closer to home, in New Orleans, Carnival climaxed with Mardi Gras.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the most-played music at the festival wins the famous “Road March” title. Taking their part in a lineage that includes Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow are this year’s winners, Ultimate Rejects, who won with their song, “Full Extreme.”
While the Ultimate Rejects were first-time winners, an old champion reemerged in South America. In Rio de Janeiro, the samba school Portela was crowned the winner of Carnival. Just like the Brazil’s World Cup team, Portela has a long and storied history but little recent success. With 22 titles, they are the winningest samba school in Rio, but this is their first title in 33 years.
Inspired by singer and composer Paulinho da Viola, Portela’s theme revolved around how we relate to water; depicting native fish and also the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history. In 2015 two dams owned by a mining company collapsed, contaminating the water supply for much of southeastern Brazil. They weren’t the only environmentally conscious samba school this year—Imperatriz Leopoldinense’s presentation protested a controversial hydroelectric dam and spoke in favor of rights for Brazil’s indigenous population—but according to the BBC, Portela got top marks in “costumes, rhythm and the quality of the samba song composed for this year’s carnival.”
You can see pictures from the performance via plus55, or watch their whole presentation on YouTube. One glimpse of these dancers dressed as alligators and their top marks in “costumes” makes total sense.
In São Paolo, Acadêmicos do Tatuapé was crowned the city’s Carnival winner, a first for the samba school, which began in 1952. In a move that’s especially pertinent to this publication, their entredo was titled “Mother Africa Tells Her Story: From the Sacred Cradle of Humanity to the Blessed Earth of Great Zimbabwe” and centered on historical African kingdoms.
Their performance can also be found on YouTube.
More festivities will kick off in April, and we in New York are, as always, looking forward to celebrating in September.