SALVADOR, Brazil — On Sunday at noon, some 15,000 people were mustered for a parade at Campo Grande, Salvador’s Central Park — part of the annual six-day carnaval here that ended on Tuesday. This parade was a show of solidarity: the first massed public performance of the city’s blocos afro, the Afro-Brazilian drum groups that are also neighborhood associations and self-help initiatives in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
At the core were 450 percussionists, pounding out the marching, swinging beat of Bahian samba reggae, and Carlinhos Brown, a hitmaking Brazilian songwriter and a bloco leader who organized and financed the parade. Around them were squadrons of costumed bloco members: Baianas in white hoop skirts, African-style dancers with straw fringes at shoulders and hips, crowned kings and queens, helmeted female warriors, hunters with glittering bows and arrows, twirling and kicking capoeira martial artists.
Thousands of other bloco members strutted along in groups wearing matching abadás — carnival jerseys — representing more than a dozen other blocos afro. Only one of Salvador’s major blocos refused to join: Olodum, the group heard on Paul Simon’s song “The Obvious Child” and seen in the video for Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us.”
The parade was a public affirmation — and media magnet — for an idea Mr. Brown has been promoting. He wants Salvador to create Afródromo, a parade ground for the blocos afro, with 20,000 bleacher seats and skyboxes. He envisions a more high-tech version of the Sambódromo, where Rio de Janeiro’s top carnaval events take place. The project is estimated by an executive producer, Raissa Martins, to cost $5 million.
Afródromo would be a new carnaval circuit. Salvador already has two primary ones: the long-established circuit along the downtown streets of Campo Grande, and a newer and now more prestigious route along the beachfront boulevard, from Barra to Ondina beaches. Mr. Brown hopes that with an established parade ground of their own, the blocos afro could gain prime-time media attention and also work together on merchandising and other programs. Afródromo’s advocates say it would help Salvador’s carnaval reclaim its soul.
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