As host of the World Cup beginning in June and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil will hold the world's attention. Festivalgoers can get a taste of the vast and diverse nation's music, Carnival culture, art and food (see 3-Course interview, page 61) at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival's Cultural Exchange Pavilion. Much of the programming focuses on cultural similarities between New Orleans and different regions of Brazil, particularly the state of Bahia in northern Brazil.
"Bahia has the largest African population in Brazil, so there is a lot of blending of cultures," says Valerie Guillet, coordinator of Cultural Exchange Pavilion. "It is very similar to New Orleans, with African, European and native influences. There are similarities with street parades, Carnival and food. That's what we're going to illustrate at the festival. We are like cousins."
Called Casa do Brasil, the programming is centered at a large tent in the infield space between the Congo Square Stage and the food area. Brazilian bands will perform on various stages on both weekends, and they also will present more intimate performances in the tent. The pavilion also features Brazilian artists, craft demonstrations and a marketplace. The artists include Amazonian craftspeople and a Sao Paulo graffiti artist, who will create a 40-foot-long mural on the grounds during the festival.
There are daily parades led by Brazilian groups, some with nearly 20 members. Mardi Gras Indian fans may want to march with Maracatu de Solto, which specializes in sequined and beaded parade banners and large apron-like costumes (pictured). Guillet says festival fans will get a chance to manipulate a giant snake that requires 40 people to carry.
Musical offerings are varied. There are traditional percussion and parading groups as well as Bahia's BaianaSystem, which plays electronic music.
For a list of Casa do Brasil programs and artists, visit www.nojazzfest.com/culture/cultural-exchange-pavilion.