The samba school Inocentes de Belford Roxo is putting all of their drummers into a Gay Robocop costume for their parade in the sambodromo on the Satruday of Rio carnival 2011.
The bateria is the most masculine of alas, and it has taken some persuading to get some of the 250 members to agree to wear this. There's a great article about this in the newspaper O Globo. Here's a summary in English.
The carnavelesco, Cristiano Bara, tells us that at first there was considerable resistance. Drummers complaints included 'How can I possibly return up the hill in the favela after the parade dressed as a Gay Robocop?' The hardest group of drummers to talk around was the cuica players, who parade right at the front of the bateria, and tend to be a bit older on average than the other drummers.
The carnavalesco has prepared some special choreography for the bateria members which seems to have helped. We won't know what this is until the the day; its being kept secret. It will involve the queen of the bateria, Isabella Picanco
Christiano explains that he hadn't originally intended for the Gay Robocop costume to be for the bateria. But in the expression of the theme through the parade, this was the ala that needed to wear it. The theme is about the famous Brazilian band Mamonas Assassinas, and the costume refers to one of their best known tracks.
But given time to get used to the idea, and some diplomacy, the members of the bateria have come around. Recently the mestre de bateria, Washington Paz (who will be dressed all in pink) has had drummers from other samba schools approaching him asking if there's any space in the bateria. If I get any pictures or video I'll post them here.
Innocentes will be the sixth samba school to parade in Rio's Grupo de Acesso on Saturday 5th March 2011.
Update: I saw this bateria on TV. Frankly I would never have guessed they were supposed to be gay robocops. They looked vaguely like spacemen. But the bateria directors did look good, in bright pink.
The principal director of a Rio Samba School's bateria is the person with overall responsiblity for the drummers It's a huge job.
The mestre da bateria has to be primarily a people manager and organiser. With nearly 300 drummers in carnival, and hundreds more hopefuls turning up for rehearsals, enormous skills of leadership and diplomacy are called for. And there are two or three major rehearsals a week, and events to organise, and inventories of drums and equipment to maintain, and drums to repair and keep track of. It is enormously time consuming, for months on end. And a mistake in carnival can lead to immediate dismissal.
Traditionally, calling someone a mestre meant that they are true masters of all of the instruments in a samba school drum section. For the principal director of a samba school's bateria, this skill is perhaps less important than leadership, charisma, a very good ear, organisation and diplomacy. But these days people outside of the world of baterias tend to use the term Mestre de Bateria for any principal director. Few people incorporate all of the necessary skills, but each bateria has a team of directors, and a good principal director will devolve responsibilities and make the most of the talents of their team.