HOW DOES RIO LIVE LIKE THIS? GRAFFITI, SUBWAYS & SAMBA 

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In March 2022, we arrived by bus for the first time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. These diary entries recount our crazy relationship and adventure in the city and the spontaneous encounter between Death Is A Business and Pede Teresa, a samba band based in Rio. This is the band that will end up on one of our albums, and continues the nomadic tradition of Death is A Business. Scroll all the way down for more images <3

DIARY ENTRY APRIL 2, 2022:

Yesterday we journeyed through the whole city of Rio. From our AirBnB in Barra da Tijuca, we taxi’d to the Jardim Oceânico subway station at about 9AM. It was much like the New York subway—but a lot cleaner. We got off at Carioca station and began our journey. We walked to the Lapa neighborhood, which was pretty grimy and covered in graffiti—some quite bad, some quite beautiful (images below).

We went to the Escadaria Selarón, a famous staircase (featured in a Snoop Dogg and Pharrell music video)covered in decorative tiles from all over the world, bearing little messages. We went up and up the stairs atop a high hill. Then we climbed back down a steep incline.


Next we visited  a giant Mayan temple—er, Catholic church—called the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião. Downstairs was a museum displaying some very unsettling art and the luxurious cloths donned by the Pope and his crew. There was a very cute sculpture of Noah’s Ark, with a procession of different animals marching aboard in pairs. Upstairs was a massive church room with high ceilings and four giant stained glass windows. Steph remarked it looked like a Kanye West concert.


After that, we went to the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, where they wouldn’t even let you touch the books. I thought it was stupid. (images below) 

Our last stop before getting drenched in the rain: we walked all across town to the Museu do Amanhã, the Museum of Tomorrow. One of my favorite exhibits was a big, black room filled with columns with photographs arranged up and down. Each column had a theme like Culture, Music, Food, Family, or Festivals. You can lose yourself in there for hours on end.


The other great exhibit was dedicated to the Amazon rainforest. The highlights included an interactive display of Amazonian instruments with a drum, flute and shaker. There were special dresses and suits from different indigenous tribes. We climbed on a replica of the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory, located 150 kilometers from the city of Manaus.

By this time both darkness and rain fell over the city, flooding the streets. We walked to Pedra do Sal in the hopes of seeing a weekly live samba performance—but it was empty.

The whole evening we also played phone tag with my uncle Francisco, dangling the possibility we would go visit him in Copacabana. Francisco is my mother’s cousin on her mother’s side, all born and raised in Ceará in the northeast. We had just met him for the first time earlier that week, after my cousin Taciana first put us in touch.

We finally decided against visiting him—he told us his neighborhood was not good to visit this late, in this weather. I didn’t know what he meant but assumed we would risk being mugged. When you visit Rio, everyone and their mother warns you could be mugged on any corner–but to tell the truth I never felt unsafe.


So we agreed to walk back towards Lapa, then catch a ride home. Along the way we stepped carefully around badly-flooded, trash-strewn streets, run rampant with speeding motorists with little regard for human life. I was shocked this giant city lives like this.

We passed the Praça Tiradentes, a small plaza. Sonia and Steph wandered towards a side street, saying they heard music. I didn’t follow—but then saw Sonia beckoning me. Inside I heard the uproar of drinking, dancing and a live band. Sonia promised we’d only be a few minutes.

We stayed for almost two hours. Inside was a small club packed with people, laid down with Coronas chilled in ice buckets and cocktails in plastic cups. In the center of the big room sat a 7-piece samba band. They arranged themselves in a wide circle, facing each other.

One guy played a pandeiro, a hand instrument with a drumhead and jingles. He sometimes switched to a caixa, which looks like a large and crude snare drum, and is played with two sticks.

Another played acoustic guitar.

Another played a surdo—a big ass drum played with a mallet, and he also switched to a tamborim, a high pitched drumhead played with a stick.

Another played a cavaco, a high-pitched string instrument similar to a ukulele.

Another played a banjo.

Another played a tan tan, a long drum played with two hands.

Another played a repique, a hand drum, who switched to congas, then to a cuica—a strange instrument that was shaped like a hand drum but made a high, wailing sound when he pulled a cord inside it. Steph said it looked like he was masturbating. I said it looked like he was killing an animal.

Most musicians in the band traded singing duties. They played long, repetitive songs that were easy for people to dance and sing along with. The songs all kind of melded together in a constant pulse of joy, festivity, friendship and love. I watched all the different musicians and instruments closely, noting details like the cushion on the surdo’s feet; the interplay between the guitar and the cavaco trading licks; when the conga player let himself go loose; how the different drums built interlocking beats; and how the singers traded verses.

Through it all the crowd grew thicker all around us, closing in on the band. They must have played some popular tunes because the crowd sang the hooks with them note for note, and crested high and released along with the band. It was energizing and inspiring.

Finally we were ready to leave—the band took a rare and brief break in between songs. I made my move—I ducked down and tapped the pandeiro player’s shoulder. Over the noise, I asked him to give me his phone number. Then we were out the door by the time the band played again.

His name was Blade—and his band, Pede Teresa. Over the next several weeks, Sonia and I zipped around the Marvelous City in the hopes of creating a Death Is A Business original samba tune with this very talented band we met that rainy night.

ADDITIONAL IMAGES <3 

Local graffiti 

Mayan temple—er, Catholic church—called the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião

Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading

Museu do Amanhã, the Museum of Tomorrow

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