Frevo Club

The clube de Frevo (Frevo club) has its origins in the existent professional unions in the last decades of the XIX century. On the eve of the Three Kings Day, on 6 January, some members of these unions would not work and, together, used to go out in the streets forming a numerous cheerful procession. These groups were denominated Clubes Pedestres (Pedestrian Clubs) and would parade through the streets and alleys of some parishes in Recife – Santo Antônio, São José and Boa Vista.

Among those clubs, the most famous ones would be: Caiadores, Vassourinhas, Canna Verde, Clube das Pás de Carvão, composed of labourers, small vendors, capoeiras (fighters), street vendors, prostitutes and others who would get together. This stratified form of playing Carnival reveals how the popular social classes create and develop particular ways of participating in the carnival festivities of the city.

In the sixties, the Pedestrian Clubs went into a re-structuring process, changing their configuration and choreographies, incorporating new characters and elevemnts. Such change is also reflected in the new denomination, Frevo Clubs. They re-elaborate their structure and choreographies, and also incorporate new characters. From the former configuration, they maintained elements such as the indispensable standard. The Clubs usually perform with the following formation: Faixa or Abre-alas (Chart-Bearer), Directory, “Puller-Marjorettes”, “Front ladies”, Featured Costumes, Rows, Standard bearers, Frevo dancers, Orchestra and, in some groups, Floats. 


Carnival Troças

Troças are similar to the Frevo Clubs in their composition, but they usually hold in relaxation and improvisation the tonic to such playfulness. They perform on streets downtown or in the suburbs of Recife. The word “troça” is derived from the verb “troçar”, which means to “mock”, “ridicule” and “make fun of”, which are words that translate the true spirit of the joke. The creation of a troça is nearly always related to a whimsical story, some joke from a friends hanging out with one another. Despite its history, one can notice that many of these groups have such a luxurious trait to them that the only difference they hold from a club is the time of the parade. They usually parade in the mornings, whereas the clubs perform at night. 


Giant puppet Clubs

The giant puppets arise in Europe, probably around Middle Age, under the influence of the pagan myths hidden by the fears of Inquisition. They arrive in Brazil with the Portuguese, initially parading in religious parades and festivities as buffoons or reproducing Catholic saints.

The tradition of Giant Puppets in the Carnival of Pernambuco is mainly highlighted in the city of Olinda. The first one, from the giant Family, was The Midnight Man (1931), as a dissidence of partners in the Carnival troça “o Cariri de Olinda”; later, the Day Woman, the Afternoon Boy, among others, came along.

The Giant Puppet Clubs parade followed by a wind instruments orchestra playing Street frevo songs and, unlike other Carnival associations, do not hold a Flag or a Standard; the main attraction is the puppet. There are puppets up to three meters and a half tal, which weigh around 35 kilos. In some clubs, the puppets are considered calungas by the Carnival artists, which means they are invested with religious values, or represent entities.


Carnival Bull

Manifestations that have the Bull as their central character rekindle antiquity, glorification and exultation parties for the animal, with origins marked by religiousness. In Brazil, its presence is intimately connected to the driving force used in the livestock farming and the sugar mills in the Northeast.

This “joke” happens during the Carnival in Recife as a derivation of bumba-meu-Bull, which is self-referred in the Christmas Cicle that represents the death and resurrection of the ox. The Carnival Bulls are characterized by their simplicity, improvisation and irreverence, and take to the streets a great array of characters, classified as human, animal and fantastic figures.

Some of them are indispensable, such as the Captain, Mateus, Bastião, Catirina, Doutor, Padre, Arlequim, the Bull, the Ema, the Burrinha, the Babau, the Jaraguá, the Devil, the Morto-carregando-o-vivo, the Caipora and Mané Pequenino. Differently from Bumba-meu-Bull or from the Bull de Terreiro (Umbanda), the Carnival Bull brings to the streets only a parade of the characters.

During the performance, the Bulls usually bring Standards or banners with a message or a theme. Some groups present wings and lines (of pastorinhas, of baianas, of caboclos, etc), but there are also groups in which the characters parade freely. 


Pau e Corda Blocks

The Mixed Carnival Blocks were originated in the 1920’s, in the central districts of Recife, and they differ from Frevo Clubs and Troças, which were considered “dangerous” in their origins; coming from middle class families, at first they would perform singing fado songs, chants and other songs which were successful at the time. It is important to highlight its similarity to pastoril groups – a dance originated in Europe referenced to during the Christmas period -, which explains the very creation of the block, with the choir composed by thepastoras on the front. It is still possible to point out similarities with the Carnival Ranches from Rio de Janeiro from the XIX century. 

According to the researcher Leonardo Dantas Silva, the uprising of such clubs would make it possible for “some ladies of the middle class…to go out on the streets, yet protected by na isolated rope that surrounded all the group, separating it from the crowd, under the strict vigilance of fathers, husbands, brothers, sons in law and friends”.

Different from the great majority of carnival associations, which open their parade with a standard, it starts with a flabelo – a hand allegory that brings the name, the date of foundation and the symbol for the association. Following the flabelo, there is the directory, the Front Ladies, the featured costumes, the rows, the female choir and the “wood and string” orchestra, based on strummed strings, wooden winds and percussion. 

From 1973 on, with the conception of the Saudade Block, there were new blocks to be parto f a movement of re-creation, paying hmage to those called the ‘traditional’ ones. Composed by liberal professionals, several blocks self-denominated Líricos arise. 

Such associations are not presente in the oficial contests, although nowadays they occupy an importante spot on the Block meetings in the oficial scheduling.



Popular manifestation rooted in the indigenous miscegenation, the Caboclinhos, also called Tribo of Caboclinhos, express a strong nativist feeling. They are men, women and children who perform vigorous choreographies in a  rhythm marked by the clacking sound of the preacas (a type of wooden bow and arrow). The baque (beat) is made up of caracaxás (rattles), bass drum and inúbia (flute or harmonica), and may also have conga and snare drums. 

All over Brazil, one may find manifestations which will refer to our indigenous origins, and the carnival in Pernambuco presents Caboclinho and Indian Tribes, the latter coming from Paraíba. Great part of these groups come from Zona da Mata or the Seashore. 

Religion may be presente at this manifestation by means of indigenous rites, the pajelança (shamanism), and the forefathers religion. It is in the Jurema or Catimbó, as it is popularly known, that most of the masters and caboclos enter into action. Some groups differ from this segment, worshipping afro-Brazilian religions, linked to Xangô and Umbanda terreiros (temples). 

The presentation is usually started with the standard-bearer (there can be more than one), followed by two rows of men and women costumed as caboclos and caboclas, respectively. In the middle, the male tribal chief (in charge of the choreography) and the female chief (the tribe’s mother). The parade also includes the presence of the Pajé (the healer and group’s spiritual leader), the Matruá (representes a wizard); the Captain (chief of one of the rows); the Lieutenant (chief of the other row): Pêros (indian children) and the Caboclos de Baque (instrumentalists). Generally, the dance is performed in three distinct moments: War, Perré and Baião. 

The garb is composed by atacas (bracelets for wrist and ankle), overskirts and loinclothes, all crafted with feathers (ostrich and other birds), sequins, beads, sea shells, mirrors, glass beads, strings and seeds. The head pieces are well diversified: cockades, helmets, wigs, diadems, sunflowers and fans, decorated with feathers and beads. They make their presentation barefoot.


Indian Tribes

With its origin in the state of Paraiba, the Indian Tribes were incorporated to the Carnival of Recife, beign for times confused with Caboclinhos. They present rather complex dances, accompanying the rhythm marked by the Indian musicality with themes related to fights, war, death and resurrection. 

The Wizard parades with garments made out of straws and answers to effects off ire and smoke; the Spy, as the name indicates, runs through the whole group, and the Puller leads the dances that develop with the Perré, the Macumba and the Matança (a fake fight in order to become Pajé). 

The first Indian Tribes to parade in the carnival of Recife were the tupi-guarani (founded in 1951), Tupi-Papo-amarelo (1962) and Paranaguazes (1953), the former two founded in Paraíba, and the latter in Pernambuco, under the influence of that state. The Tribo tupi-guarani was led by Perré, an Indian descendant from Paraíba, who influenced the uprising of many other groups in Pernambuco, leaving a legacy that even includes a kind of dance, performed by the Caboclinhos and other tribes, named after him. 

In the past, participants usually painted the body in red and wore satin or velvet shirts, containing shields and axes drawings in the middle. The garments, as well as the fans and cockades, are crafted with turkey, duck feathers and boá – a scarf made of plume and feathers. The outfit, the embellishments and the standard are richly decorated with fringe, sequins and beads, and are very similar to those of the Caboclinhos. 


Maracatu Nação (Nation) or de Baque Virado (Twisted Stroke)

The groups of Maracatu Nação (Nation), also known as Maracatu de Baque Virado (Twisted Stroke) have their origins in the coronations of black Kings and Queens denominated Congo Kings. Under the protection of the Fraternities of Our Dear Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedicto, they promote the coronations as a form of subordination, administration and control of the slaves. They used to be performed during the liturgical celebrations for the saints, and the people would go out on the street in royal garments. With the abolishment of slavery, the party was detached from the church and integrates carnival.

The Nation maracatu groups make their presentation as a court, richly dressed in silk, velvet, embroidery and beads. Ahead of the procession, enters the Standard-Bearer; followed by the Dama-do-Paço (Court Lady) who carries a doll called calunga (a consecrated icon).  Following the parade, come the Front Ladies, then the Baianas de Cordão or Catirinas, the rich Baianas.

There are also representatives of the Court, such as: Duke and duches, Count and Countess, Marquis and Marquise, and Emperor and Empress, as well as Prince and Princess. Also, the presence of two men playing Lampião (an icon in the area), roman Soldiers and Vassals. The persona of the Caboclo Arreiamá or Caboclo de Penas representes the wisdom of the indigenous people and the protection of the forest spirits. The procession ends with thecharacters of the King and the Queen, who parade protected by a giant umbrella (pálio) and carried by a slave (pajem).

Strongly connected to the religions of African origin, specially Candomblé, the most “traditional” Nations express through the symbols, chants, dances, garments and embelishments their close relations to the orixás (deities), in a movement of fight, resistance and preservation of Afro-brazilian cultural practices.


Maracatu de Baque Solto or Rural

Rich expression of the Afro-indian culture in the carnival of Pernambuco, the Loose Stroke Maracatu is also known as Trombone or Orchestral Maracatu. In this cultural manifestation it becomes evident the fusion of various popular merrymakings existente in the sugar cane areas in the interior of the state, such as: reisado, pastoril, cavalo-marinho, bumba-meu-boi, Caboclinhos, among others.

The structure of this Carnival activity, which migrates from the interior for several reasons, goes through deep transformations when in contact with the city, with the Twisted Stroke Maracatu, and the incorporation to the universe of the Carnival Federation and to the Carnival Associations Contest in Recife.

During Carnival, it parades under the direction of the whistle or the movement of the master’s cane, who conducts all movements of the Maracatu.  Four main dramatis personae open the procession: Mateus, Catirina, the Mare and the Hunter. At the front of the association, the Flag or Standard presents the group and is carried by the banner boy, dressed as Luiz XV.

The verses or Loas (responsive songs) are improvised by the master and may have several types: the court march, the six samba, the tem samba and the six gallop. By his side, the counter master will be repeating as a choir the last verses sung. At the command of the Caboclo master, the only one to have his back facing the crowd, the evolution of the Caboclaria will take place, called maneuvers.

The one to grab our attention the most will be the Spear Caboclo –  exotic figure full of enchantment and aesthetic beauty, who makes his presentation to the public wearing a richly glittery embroidered colar, cowbells, an enourmous colorful wig and a long spear adorned with ribbons (the guiada).

In the Loose Stroke Maracatu, there is one Caboclo who doesn’t use the guiada, called Arreiamá, also known as Tuxaua. His role is to protect the spirits connected to the Sacred Jurema.

As a means of rehearsing, the Maracatus de Baque Solto promote the “Sambadas”: meeting of másters, orchestras and maracatu players, which take place in the outdoors of several maracatu headquarters all year long.


Samba Schools

In Pernambuco, the samba organized in schools has its own characteristics, such as the incorporation of musical instruments and choreographies based on moves from frevo, maracatu, capoeira and other expressions.

In Recife, the first references to samba schools are found in the district of Casa Amarela, in the festivity “o Bando da Noite”, later called Samba School Quatro de Outubro. In the 1930’s, the Samba School Limonil, from the Afogados district, makes history entering the city’s carnival celebration. In the forties, the arrival of the São Paulo Battleship, which brought samba musicians among six crew members, contributed to the increase in blocks and samba schools. Such associations are listed in the big newspapers at the time.



The word afoxé dates back to the end of the 19th century, and constitutes a term with several meanings. According to some scholars, this word has a Sudonese origin áfohsheih and appears due to its influence over the Bantus, who used it to name nations and groups administered by a black governor. Many studies regard Afoxé, in Recife, as a manifestation provenient from the essence of the first Maracatu groups.

Imbued with a religious character and concerned about the preservation of values, the afoxé is a religious artistic expression. Linked to the African nations.

In Pernambuco, the first one was Ilê de África, created in Recife at the end of the seventies, as a form of social, political and cultural resistance. However, it was in the middle eighties that several militants of the Unified Black Movement went to the streets with the Afoxé Alafin Oyó. Though, if in the eighties there was no more than a dozen groups, nowadays there are over thirty.

In the street, the organization of an Afoxé is characterized by thepresence of the Flag-Bearer, who opens the procession and shows the Nation Flag; a child carries the babalotim (sacred Afoxé symbol, that can also be carried by a pregnant woman); the body of dances, richly adorned with panos-da-costa,bead and torso threads in the color of the patron Orixá; the directory; and the percussion composed of agbês (calabash wrapped in a net of bead threads), conga drums (run, rumpis and lê), and agogôs. Some groups bring people costumed as the orixás.


Urso (Bear) or La Ursa

The presence of the Bear in the Carnival in Pernambuco is an European heritage. The long acquaintance with the animal, since primitive times, promotes its incorporation to cultural traditions of these populations. By extrapolating the utility universe (as food, use of skin, etc), the Bear gains space in the domain of popular imagery, several records in literature, songs, mythology, anecdotes and even religious rites.

Initially, the “play” was characterized only by the presence of a man dressed as a bear, by the Hunter, followed by some musicians. Until nowadays, when one things of “La Ursa”, the popular name for the “play”, it is common to Picture children playing on the streets during carnival, banging on cans, pulling someone dressed as a bear and shouting something similar to “trick or treat”, which means “Bear wants the money, those who won’t give it are stingy”.

Bears who participate in the contest of Carnival Associations present several elements such as a Banner-Bearer (a type of Standard); a theme; a Banner (with the name of the Bear, year and theme); Rows and an orchestra.



Catálogo de Agremiações Carnavalescas – do Recife e Região Metropolitana – Recife. PCR, 2009. Coordenação de Pesquisa: Eduardo Pinheiro. Pesquisa e textos: Alzenide Simões, Carmem Lélis, Eduardo Pinheiro, Hugo Menezes, Leilane Nascimento, Mário Ribeiro.
Supervisão de Texto: Carmem Lélis