Austin’s Annual Samba-Inflected Carnaval Brasileiro

Bharat Lall is a longtime hospitality-industry executive who directs Pinnacle Hotels USA and oversees high-profile properties ranging from Hyatt Regency North Dallas to Marriott in Riverside, California. Also operating DoubleTree by Hilton Austin, Bharat Lall maintains a property in one of Texas’ most vibrant cultural hubs.

One anticipated annual event that brings out locals as well as visitors is the Carnaval Brasileiro, which takes place every February and marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic calendar. Held at the Palmer Events Center, the event draws more than 5,000 participants for a samba-inflected celebration that is most comparable to Mardi Gras in sheer volume and enjoyment.

Carnaval Brasileiro has its roots in the 1970s, in informal parties arranged by Brazilian students at the University of Texas at Austin who were homesick for their own festive traditions. The indoor event is known for its authenticity, with participants getting into the act through colorful costumes. Often friends and neighbors join as a “bloco” in designing themed costumes.

The 2018 Carnaval Brasileiro featured highlights such as a seven-piece Salvador, Bahia, band fronted by international artist Dandara Odara. Musical offerings of the combo included samba-reggae rhythms from the northeast of the country, as well as Rio de Janeiro-style marches and sambas. Other well-received bands included Grupo Massa, a local Austin band that includes bass, accordion, and guitar, as well as seven percussionists.