Mar 14

Bezerra da Silva – Samba and the Malandro


Every man in his area, Every monkey on his branch, Every cockerel in his yard, Every king in his deck


I only became aware of the subject of today’s post recently, when I passed that piece of street art (above) during carnival. It’s a nice piece of work and the guy has a nice looking face – then I saw the lyrics and decided it was time to find out more (starting with what a baralho is – a deck of playing cards).

Born in 1927 in Recife, José Bezerra da Silva grew up singing a North/Northeastern style of music called Coco. In 1942 he moved to Rio and in the 1950s found work as a session musician. His first record was released in 1969 and he went on to record 30 albums over the following 4 decades. He became particularly renowned for a style of samba known as partido alto.


Malandros and Malandragem

It seems impossible to say much about Bezerra without mentioning the term malandro. A malandro is someone who lives by malandragem, a lifestyle of hustling, petty crime and idleness. It wasn’t long after I got to Rio that I first came across this word malandro. Fittingly enough, a colleague was warning me about wandering down the wrong street in Lapa – “Watch out for malandros” she said. I say ‘fitting’ because, in Rio there is a strong association between malandros and Lapa.

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Mar 12

Expats doing it for themselves



In contrast to scaremongering right-wing politicians, I believe that immigrant communities make big cities better. Imagine London without its rich pockets of immigrants from the Caribbean, China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Turkey, and so on. It might still be a good city, but would it be a great one? I doubt it.

As an immigrant myself, I have first hand experience of some of the challenges and emotions faced by people living in a new country. Of course some of the classic economic difficulties that immigrants face have been easier for me because I have the advantage of a good education, but I’ve felt homesick, lost, confused and isolated at times and I’ve even had people tell me to go back to where I came from. Once I was even on the receiving end of that classic accusation: You’re stealing our jobs and our women! (“women” plural? Don’t tell Mrs Eat Rio!). Happily most of my interactions with the locals have been far more positive!

But however much we enjoy our new life, I’m sure all immigrants/expats miss things that they can’t get in their new home. To be honest with you, I never bothered that much with Marmite back in London, but once I moved to Rio I found myself longing for the stuff. And what do we do when we can’t have something from home? We fill our suitcases or we make those things ourselves!

Sadly I haven’t succeeded in formulating my own Marmite (Mrs Eat Rio would probably leave me if I did!), but recently I decided to have a go at making another British favourite – crumpets!

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Mar 10

Temos Carne de Rã! …Huh?


For people learning Brazilian Portuguese, one of the first unintuitive pronunciation lessons you need to learn is that in certain contexts, Rs sound like Hs. “Rio”, “Barra” and “Rato” sound respectively like “Hee-o”, “Ba-hah” and “Hatt-o”. This can lead Brazilians to utter rather amusing mispronunciations of English words such as ‘Hock and Holl’ (popular music that emerged in the 1950s) and ‘Hugby’ (contact sport involving an egg-shaped ball).

The subject of today’s post is another such word: . Probably the easiest way to describe the pronunciation of rã is to say that it sounds almost exactly like the English quizzical “Huh”. But what is it? Rã is the word for frog and you find this word in some unexpected places!

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Mar 07

Rio Carnival 2014 – Smiles, Social Comment and drones!



It’s been a strange time in Rio since the protests of July 2013. After so much unrest, a lot of the outrage seemed to evaporate (at least from the front pages). However, none of the issues that provoked the protests have been resolved, and so I think many of us have been feeling that the anger that drove the protests is simmering under the surface, waiting for a time to strike again.

Would Rio carnival 2014 be the time for people to voice their dissatisfaction? Would the street parties turn into street protests? Would carnival be marred by stun grenades and tear gas? Or would everyone forget about their grievances, distracted by all this bread and circus?

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Mar 06

Carnaval do Lixo



Carnival 2014 is over! Phew! So how did it go? Well, I had a great time – it didn’t rain and we went to some really nice blocos on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I’m afraid that 3 days solid partying is about all I can manage nowadays. When Tuesday came around I found myself longing for a quiet day on the sofa!

As usual, I was snapping away with my camera, always on the lookout for some inventive fantasia or other fun sight. Here are some highlights:

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Feb 28

Carnival Songs: Marcha do Remador!



The time has come. Rio Carnival 2014 is finally upon us and I have just enough time to squeeze in one more essential carnival marchinha to my growing list. Today’s classic comes from way back in 1964 (incidentally, I got my haircut yesterday and the women in the hairdressers were lamenting that no one makes new marchinhas anymore – why is that?).

I have to admit to a rather childish enjoyment of today’s song because of a naughty piece of crowd participation. But first, let’s hear an unadulterated rendition from the woman who made it famous, Emilinha Borba (remember she was the one that had a fight with another carnival singer over the affections of Orson Welles):

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Feb 27

Photo Post: Mujique-se!


Mujique-se – ‘Mujica yourself’.



Is there a more popular national leader serving today than José Mujica of Uruguay? I’m sure we’ve all heard of his headline grabbing legalisation of marijuana (for which he was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), but did you also know that during the 1960s and 70s he was a guerilla leader who served 14 years in prison, including 2 years at the bottom of a well?

But probably more than his progressive policies, his popularity seems to be due in large part to his lack of apparent interest in personal wealth and its trappings. In a continent where those in power are notorious for their associations with corruption and organised crime, how refreshing to see a national leader pass up the opportunity to live in an opulent presidential palace in favour of living on his wife’s modest farm; a leader who routinely looks reassuringly dishevelled, drives a beaten up old VW Beetle and reluctantly accepts a skeleton staff of just 2 body guards.

Wouldn’t it feel like progress if a few more world leaders took the advice in the graffiti above and made themselves more like Mujica?


Feb 25

Rio Carnaval 2014 – Off to Paquetá!


Arriving on Paquetá, we were struck by the tranquil atmosphere due to the lack of cars and motorbikes.


Well, I’m officially in a full-on carnival state of mind! Last Saturday, some friends and I went to a bloco called Pérola de Guanabara (Pearl of Guanabara) which was held on the island of Paquetá. Paquetá is a small island in Guanabara Bay that you can visit by taking a 1:15hr ferry ride from Praça 15. It was my first visit to the island so I was already pretty excited, but to combine it with my first bloco of 2014 was an extra bonus. Little did I know that the highlight of this special day would be the ferry ride home!

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Feb 21




Recife, 1929. Three engineers, Amadeu Oliveira Coimbra, Ernest August Boeckmann and Antônio de Góis, are on their way to the patent office to protect their new innovation – a ‘hollow structural element’. Somewhere between a brick and a tile, these ‘structural elements’ would go on to become one of the iconic elements of Brazilian Modernist architecture.

The only problem was the name – what were they going to call these things? They all wanted some credit for the innovation, but somehow the Coimbra-Boeckmann-Góis Brick didn’t sound like it was going to catch on. Instead they took the first 2 letters of each of their surnames and christened their hollow bricks Cobogó.

A few years later, Cobogó was used to cover the entire façade of the huge Caixa D’água building in Olinda.

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Feb 20

Kebab Chic and a Mexican Correction



One of the things I try to do with Eat Rio is publicise food-related projects that I think deserve support and recognition (my motives are entirely selfish – as a resident of Rio, I want the food scene to improve in terms of variety, quality and value for money). So when I hear about something interesting – someone making neapolitan style pizzas in a mobile pizza oven; a couple of guys making authentic Mexican food in a Favela – I’m always keen to know more.

Last week I had a call from Yves (remember the Cheese Maverick?), telling me that he was about to start doing something new – he was calling it Kebab Chic. My curiosity was well and truly piqued, so I took a friend down to Travessa do Comércio to find out more.

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