Gafieiras have been a strange constant in Rio’s life. Strange is a strong word but in this case it is true, because they have been in a constant re-discovery process since the late seventies, the time when Lost Samba, this blog’s book, took place.
What are Gafieiras?
They are samba dance halls with live music playing a style of samba that takes the same name. Nothing has changed much since the 1930’s or 20’s in terms of venues, the kind of musicians, and the songs. The dance is the closest samba gets to salsa, and actually the Gafieira is the closest that Rio gets to Havana, the parallels are undeniable. It is a very authentic, lively and healthily sexy experience.
These clubs in the seventies were where the middle class re-encountered “the people”. At the end of the military dictatorship people wanted to forget the foreign imports and wanted to feel Brazilian again; they would flock to the praca Tiradentes in the city center, a place that had been at the heart of Carioca bohemian life, even before the days of Carmen Miranda.
The public from the south zone with their flashy cars, fancy clothes and different haircuts contrasted very much with the locals, who were still very old school and were poor.
As late teenagers that was a great place to pick up girls as you can read in Lost Samba: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00791OM34
Nowadays the political connotation has left but people continue re-discovering the Gafiera; they are always full, the music continues to be great and you don’t need to be a pro to shake your money maker on the dance floor.