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Aparacida Samba School

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Imagine spending three marathon hours with a Brazilian drum corps, pounding out samba rhythms on the steamy evening streets of Manaus. Imagine dancing alongside Carnival queens in the oldest neighborhood in the city while shimmery confetti showers down on you and your 150 new friends. Now imagine you’re in class, too. For the students in Professor Julie Strand’s music classes, this unmatchable experience wasn’t a happy accident—it was an extension of the classroom.

Dr. Julie Strand at the Escola de Samba Aparacida

Students in Strand’s “Introduction to World Music” and “Popular Music in World Cultures” boarded a bus Thursday night for Aparacida, the oldest neighborhood in Manaus, and joined in the once-in-a-lifetime experience as the Escola de Samba Aparecida prepared for Carnival. Semester at Sea arrived in Manaus just 2 weeks before the world-famous Brazilian holiday, and the Samba School eagerly invited students to join in their rehearsal.

The Escola de Samba is one of several samba schools in Manaus, but is widely recognized as the biggest and best of the bunch. The school creates a consistently festive feel in the Aparacida neighborhood as they prepare all year long for the Carnival season. Students drummed and danced for hours amid the Escola‘s thunderous rehearsal. The whole neighborhood got involved as local residents flocked to the echoes of samba from several blocks away, making Strand‚Äôs program, in the words of several students, the ‚Äúbest field program ever!‚Äù

Strand, an ethnomusicologist from Northeastern University, has studied music from Bali to Burkina Faso, and has more in store for her students this semester. Future field trips in her two music classes include dinner at a hip-hop artist’s house in Cape Town and a bunraku performance of puppetry in Kobe.

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