I want to take a moment to talk about Lapa in Rio de Janeiro. It was our first night in Rio and we started off in Copacabana, there are lots of street bars situated just behind the beach and we had agreed to meet a solo traveller whom we met on the plane, her brother was arriving the following day and she had visited Rio before so we all met up at this bar and started hitting the Caiprinha’s
, after a short while we wanted to find somewhere with real energy and some music as it would appear that the bars in Copacabana expect you to entertain yourselves with conversation, an interesting prospect.
So, after being told of a lively but potentially dangerous place called Lapa, we did what anybody would do, grabbed a taxi and headed on down there. Upon leaving the taxi my senses were instantly overloaded, smells of the barbecue and sweet pastry coupled with spirits, sweat and weed. Dance music, drums, people shouting and the shuffle of feet filled my ears and visually I was stopped in my tracks by locals dancing samba in the streets, old women feeding caipirinhas to the thirsty revellers and lights flashing behind the windows of what appeared like warehouses.
Life has taught me that in situations such as these, there is only one thing to do and that it is to go in with both feet, so we grab a drink from the dutiful old lady begin to absorb this smorgasbord of Brazilian culture. Firstly we headed into a small place that appeared like an off licence, the walls were adorned with hundreds of bottles of flavoured caipirinhas and the guys behind the counter were having as much fun as the customers, this ‘off licence’ was in fact a bar, the idea is that you drink on the street, a perfect idea in such a climate!! There were some bell jars filled with a concoction of alcohol and flavours that would make Oliver Reed wince, so of course we sampled them…rocket fuel!
Following this we took our drinks to the street and witnessed a man no younger than 60 perched on a full drum kit, backed by a young guy on the trumpet, busting out some incredible samba beats! We stayed for around half an hour watching this guy relentlessly fill the street with music, so simple but so moving. In Brazil these beats and rhythms course through the veins of the locals whether they are dancing, head bopping or playing music you quickly realise that such rhythm is never taught, only felt. Sadly I am not Brazilian nor have I been educated in the world of dance but I tried with everything I had to channel my inner Carioca and join in the party. The ability to dance is irrelevant here, there is no judgement and no sense of expectation here, nobody tries, people just feel. As the night progressed the theme continued and we entered into a warehouse with more Samba playing and danced the rest of the evening and morning away, and despite the warnings of potential danger I felt no fear at any time.
I have little time for the flatulent veneer of major cities such as this, I believe it is only in the still beating heart of a place that you can truly engage with its character and charm and by god, in Lapa, I came close to being pumped straight out of the chest of Rio de Janeiro.
You have not visited Rio until you witness, something that my friend wonderfully referred to as , the deliciously urban phenomenon that is Lapa.