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Cities and living heritage


A mélange of exceptional music, the frevo is also a playful and demanding dance. It is a strong element of the cultural identity of the inhabitants of Recife in eastern Brazil.

Every spring, the city of Recife, in the far east of Brazil, dons its carnival clothes. It’s time for music, dance, optimism and euphoria. At the heart of the festivities is the Frevo. In this frenetic carnival dance music, we recognize the regular cadence of military marching music, the marked beats of the Brazilian tango, the harmonic patterns of the Caribbean quadrille, the lively tempo of polka and the polyrhythm of jazz  ‒ a mélange of musical genres of diverse origins, but all typically urban.

You need athletic skills to dance to the sounds of the Frevo! The Passo, the accompanying dance,  has more than a hundred rigorously structured steps – its high jumps and other acrobatics give it an air of  extraordinary joy and freedom.

The Carnival lasts only a week, but its spirit lingers in the city all year round. The residents of Recife, across all social classes and generations, gather together in their spare time to prepare for the next festival. Everyone contributes their skills, talents and knowledge. New pieces of music are composed, new dance feats are invented, new costumes and disguises are made – all competing in imagination.

If the inhabitants of Recife have something in common, it is the Frevo – it nurtures their sense of belonging to the same culture, and strengthens community values and social cohesion. It is these values that led to the inscription of the Frevo on UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012.

Intangible cultural heritage is a bridge between traditional and contemporary cultural values. It is the living expression of oral traditions, craft skills, artistic, social or ritual customs, knowledge and know-how handed down to us by previous generations.

In urban areas, this living heritage is a creative force that binds and strengthens communities.

Video: Frevo, performing arts of the Carnival of Recife, Brazil, intangible cultural heritage

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