Who would’ve thought a Chicago’s  cold Winter night could transform into a Brazilian hot Summer evening? That is how it felt like at Logan Square Auditorium during the Chicago Samba’s Queen of Samba contest.  Chicago Samba is a Midwest-based music ensemble that has been performing  the authentic sounds of Brazil mixed with the flavor of Carnaval for more than 21 years.   They are also the organizers of the only Queen of Samba contest in Chicago, an event that brings Brazilians and non-Brazilians together.

Some of the band members also come from non-Brazilian backgrounds. The keyboard player, for example, is from Uzbekistan, and the trumpet player is from the South Side of Chicago. His name is Ben Lamar and he  grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, Bossa Nova and Tom Jobim.

Ben moved to Rio de Janeiro for three years. When he first got there he could not speak any Portuguese and was afraid, but he was able to connect with people through his music. He naturally felt at ease in a culture that was attractive to him because it reminded him of old traditions that were common in America before capitalism took over. For example, Brazilians  fix things if they break instead of getting rid of them; they also go to small Mom and Pops neighborhood stores instead of  big and impersonal supermarket chains, and they have musical instruments at home, the way it used to be here before the advent of the Television era. This allowed room for creativity, connection, and for sharing one’s family musical heritage. He suggests that when going to Brazil or any country in Latin America “forget about speaking languages, that just causes confusion, but connect with the soul, language is the last thing you worry about” he says. “I can transfer my good energy without even talking to you”. And certainly his good energy and of the Chicago Samba ensemble was felt the whole night.

Edilson Lima was an enthusiastic cheerleader throughout the event. His energetic dance lead from the stage and from the dance floor, along with Chicago’s samba festive music,had everybody dancing non-stop. It definitely felt as if we were in the middle of a Carnival celebration. But the queen of the night was undoubtedly  the Queen of Samba contest. A group of beautiful ladies faced the judges and the  crowd to  show their love for Samba. The winner of the contest was Panamanian Karlies Kelley, who was crowned Queen of Samba and given the grand prize of $250. The second place was awarded to a Brazilian, Ludgy Cunha, who was named Princess of Samba and given a second price of $150. Our friends from Chicagoano, a website that covers all things Brazilian in Chicago, were also present at this event and shared with us their videos. In this one you can see the current Queen of Samba Karlies Kelly performing (she is the first one appearing on the video):

After the contest, the party continued with a grand finale performed by dancers dressed in spectacular Carnival costumes. Chicago Samba’s Edilson Lima called Christina Trumbauch and Pierre Cameron from Folia Tropicalia Dance Group, to share the stage and dance with them:

This was an evening that definitely had an enthusiastic atmosphere, and a great way to start the Carnival festivities in Chicago. Feliz Carnaval Galera!

View Queen of Samba Contest Flickr Slide Show »


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