Samba time! Brazil’s Carnival erupts in an explosion of colour as millions thunder through the streets for the start of the five-day fiesta

Parade: Members of the Mancha Verde samba school at Sao Paulo's Sambadrome
Brazil's Carnival celebrations opened with a bang yesterday as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to enjoy the start of the country's famous parades and street parties. Korean popstar Psy, whose "Gangnam Style" single with its signature dance moves has made him a global phenomenon, performed to huge crowds in Salvador, Brazil's third-biggest city, last night. Other Brazilian and foreign celebrities, including US actress Megan Fox, are flying out to liven up the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro and
Got rhythm: a queen of the drums of the Rosas de Ouro samba school performs during the first night of Sao Paulo's Carnival parades
elsewhere. The five days of street parties, balls and parades traditionally shut down most of Latin America's biggest country, luring millions of locals and tourists to celebrations across the country. Rio alone is expected to attract 900,000 tourists and generate US$665 million for the local economy this year.
The different carnivals, which take place in Sao Paulo, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais as well as Rio and Salvador and numerous other cities, each showcase their own type of music such as samba, samba-reggae and funk samba. Last night parades began in Sao Paulo's specially built Sambadrome, a spaceTechnicolor samba: dancers from the Rosas de Ouro samba school perform in Sao Paulo in the small hours of this morningTechnicolor samba: dancers from the Rosas de Ouro samba school perform in Sao Paulo in the small hours of this morning
designed for parades. The annual event takes place in the days leading up to Lent, the 40-day period before Easter. It began yesterday with the the mayor of Rio de Janeiro symbolically handing over the keys of the city to King Momo, the ceremonial figurehead of Brazil's best-known Carnival celebrations. But this year's festivities are taking place under the pall of the recent nightclub fire that killed 238 people in the southern city of Santa Maria. Sixty-five others are still hospitalised. On Thursday evening President Dilma Rousseff attended a mass in honour of the victims of the disaster at the cathedral in Brasilia, the capital. Weird and wonderful: members of the samba school Rosas de Ouro Special Group at the Sambadrome
Weird and wonderful: members of the samba school Rosas de Ouro Special Group at the Sambadrome
Big band: drummers from the Mancha Verde samba school make some nois
Big band: drummers from the Mancha Verde samba school make some noise in Sao Paulo
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