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TOKYO

Summer samba carnival brings the heat to Asakusa’s streets

by Eriko Arita

Powerful drum beats, cheerful songs and passionate dancing from Brazil will fill Tokyo’s Asakusa district, the capital’s traditional downtown, during the 30th Asakusa Samba Carnival.

The annual event was launched in 1981 by an association of local stores in an effort to revitalize the area. The group modeled the event after Rio de Janeiro’s famed Carnival. The festival attracted some 500,000 audiences last year, according to the organizers.

The event, which runs from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 28, will take the form of a contest.

A total of 16 teams will compete in two leagues, fighting for prestige and (in some cases) a cash prize. The higher S1 league will contain 10 teams and the lower S2 league will have six. Overall, 4,500 people will march, dance, sing and play musical instruments on the streets.

Samba teams select their own themes and make the appropriate representative music, choreography, costumes and floats.

In each team, music is played by an accompanying band called a bateria. Baterias contain a diverse range of instruments, but they almost always include a big bass drum called a surdo that drives the beat for the dancers.

Costumes are also essential. Groups of dancers will wear costumes in order to portray specific themes. Meanwhile, solo dancers, or passistas, wear vividly colored bikinis with feathers and jewels as accessories.

Last year, a team named G.R.E.S. Nakamise Barbaros won the S1 league contest. The team, based in Asakusa, is this year defending the title and will perform under a zodiac theme.

The teams in the S2 league will parade first, followed by those in the S1 league.

Every year, the area is packed with huge throngs of spectators, so competition will also be stiff for a good spot.

The Asakusa Samba Carnival parade takes place on Aug. 28 from 1:30 p.m. till 6 p.m. The parade starts from Umamichi Street, which runs parallel to Matsuya department store and the Tobu Line’s Asakusa Station. For more information, visit www.asakusa-samba.jp