Sounds of the City - Rio

22nd April 2019

Brazil - Brazil Team

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« Our guide to unearthing musical adventures in the Carnival capital »

The city of live music

Rio de Janeiro is a city that lives and breathes live music. A hotbed of music culture, it blends the traditional and cutting edge with a sense of laidback informality that is wholly unique to Brazil. The former capital’s artistic beach culture of the late 1950s fused samba and jazz together to spearhead the bossa nova scene, helping to define a youth revolution in music, something that is echoed today in the city’s burgeoning underground electronic music scene. Rio is also world renowned for its extravagant samba-infused carnival atmosphere, not to mention the city’s unabashed passion for all things ‘rock’. Music is at the beating heart of Rio, but just how do you start to navigate the sounds of this vibrant city?  

If you’re looking for a magical Rio venue to catch superstars, then check out the Jeunesse Arena, the second largest music venue in Brazil. The venue has played host to numerous international acts over the years, with The Arctic Monkeys set to take the stage in April.  

If you’re after something slightly less mainstream, then head to Audio Rebel in Botafogo, where the former recording studio regularly plays host to Rio’s burgeoning independent music scene. It’s a great place to sample everything form avant-garde samba to experimental electronica.

Samba, but not just that

However, to really get to the heart of Rio’s music culture, a trip to the understated, but much revered, Bip Bip bar is something of a must. Hidden away in a Copacabana backstreet, this hole-in-the-wall bar has been the epitome of laidback Brazilian music culture since 1968, serving up a plethora of authentic samba jam sessions. (Insider tip – show your appreciation by clicking your fingers, as opposed to clapping, to fit right in as a local).

Heavy metal and hard rock have always been massively popular in Brazil, and Rio is by no means an exception. The long-running Rock in Rio music festival is returning to its metal roots in 2019, with a dedicated ‘Metal Day’, but the festival also offers a broad selection of artists across the musical spectrum, with Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden and Muse set to headline alongside P!nk and Drake this year. 

In terms of a street party celebration, well Rio has arguably the most famous in the world, and it’s a must in anyone’s music calendar; the Rio Carnival, which usually takes place in Februrary or March. it sees the streets of Rio annually awash with a celebration of music and colour. Away from the lavish excess and toppling headdresses of the Sambadrome, hosts of informal block-parties (blocos) take place on almost every street comer, serving up the true carnival spirit – with each different bloco creating its own signature song. 

In the heart of independent music

Cited by many as the vinyl capital of the world, the city also offers up a wealth of independent record havens for crate-digging vinyl enthusiasts. From the ever popular Tropicalia Discos in downtown RIo to Tracks in the Gavea district, these are destinations where the eccentricities and passions of their owners are clearly in evidence, creating unique social spaces to uncover musical gems both old and new.   

Whatever your flavour, Rio has something to offer everyone, the secret is to get out there and explore. You never know what you might hear round the next corner.