Brazilian Samba Comes Low-key and Local in Copacabana
We’ve heard a lot of live music during our two week stay in Rio de Janeiro – at bars, clubs, by the beach, and in the streets of this hip-swinging Brazilian city. It’s hard not to hear music in a city where nearly every cultural activity has a soundtrack! And that soundtrack typically comprises Brazilian samba or bossa nova.
While many of the live music venues in Rio are excellent and there’s a lot of fine playing of jazz, samba and bossa nova, we found – somewhat surprisingly – that many of the performances we saw lacked soul.
Whether it was due to the venues themselves – such as the colossal Rioscenarium (which we checked out with our Sao Paolo-based travel blogger friend, Fly Brother) which, while loads of fun, was just too big for our liking – or the atmosphere of the organized show (where foreign visitors come to get their only ‘authentic’ slice of Brazilian music), not a lot of the music we saw really had us spellbound. Until…
One wet and windy night, we fronted up to Bip Bip in Copacabana on the way home from a bar hop.
What drew us into this modest botequim (neighbourhood bar or pub) was the sound of the cuíca, the Brazilian ‘drum’ that sounds like a cross between a monkey and a car horn. It’s one of the staple sounds of Brazilian samba and features heavily in the Tropicália sounds of our favourite Brazilian musician, artist and poet, Tom Zé.
Four-string guitars were ringing out as the musicians, casually sitting around the small square tables, were joined by other performers, eventually taking over every table inside the tiny bar.
Beers and shots were consumed by all, and the samba and bossa nova songbooks were thoroughly put through their paces. Though no-one really stood out as a singer, the playing was great, the rhythms were captivating, and the musicians’ love of the music was unmistakable.
Bip Bip has been around for years and while we later learned it is in all the guidebooks, the place was overwhelmingly packed with locals the night we dropped by, all squeezed around the pavement tables.
Perhaps we were just lucky because most of the guidebooks also say that you shouldn’t go to Copacabana at night. And we know from experience just how wrong that advice is!
Rua Almirante Gonçalves 50, Copacabana