It’s Mardi Gras time in Austin, so laissez les bons temps rouler! Start things off with local treasure, Austin Samba, which brings 50 performers and special guests to the Stateside Theater for the “Big Easy” on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m. doors. Austin Samba will cook up a gumbo of classic New Orleans tunes simmered in Brazilian percussion and spiced with beautiful choreography. Enjoy a wild mash up of Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Jerry Lee Lewis and Clifton Chenier, that celebrates the irresistible joy of Mardi Gras and Carnaval with rhythms and dance from throughout Brazil.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, the beloved cultural institution, Carnaval Brasileiro, marks its 40th anniversary at Palmer Events Center. One of Austin’s longest running annual traditions, which began as a 1975 celebration for UT Brazilian expatriates and friends, has turned into the largest indoor Brazilian Mardi Gras celebration anywhere on the globe. It’s an epic evening with an infectiously danceable pulse of samba drums, an endless parade of exotic costumes and the uninhibited euphoria of over 6,000 attendees.
The heart and soul of the festivity is found in the authentic, fiery Brazilian carnaval music provided by high energy bands. At the center of attention once again is Austin Samba, composed for the occasion with approximately 160 local drummers and dancers trained in performing authentic renditions of Rio’s great carnaval groups, the escolas de samba.
They’ll be joined by Brazilian native Dandara Odara, who leads the Pragandaia Band. Their music is inspired by the rich, sensuous swing of Brazil and Bahia’s African-based culture. Odara’s sound comes from a mixture of sources involving rhythms from the Caribbean, Africa, and Cuba.
Tickets to Carnaval Brasileiro are $40 advance/$50 door and are available at sambaparty.com/tickets and Waterloo Records, Nelo’s Cycles, Studio Brasil Salon and Lucy in Disguise.