Celina’s parents live in a gated community tucked into the hillside below Pedra da Gávea, an 845 metre pinnacle of granite and gneiss that rises high into the sky, on the western edge of Sáo Conrado. This majestic mountain is bare rock but at its base the jungle is luxurious, and full of birds, monkeys, snakes and insects. It’s easy to spot different families of small monkeys or the odd Toucan, not only in the jungle but also in the cultivated gardens. For here amongst the greenery, enterprising Cariocas, as Rio residents call themselves, started building family-size houses back in the 1960s. Exclusivity is guaranteed not only by the large plots but also by the Guarita, the security people manning the entry gate 24/7. The residents of this particular community keep themselves very much to themselves and there is a delightful serenity about the place. Driving in on the cobbled road with the jungle encroaching from all sides, you realise this is an oasis of calm away from the chaotic traffic and noise that defines modern Rio de Janeiro.
Pedra da Gávea
The young man from next door called on Saturday afternoon. “We’re having a party tonight. Here’s my telephone number! Please call me if the music’s too loud.” The house is maybe thirty metres away, the gardens adjoining; any ‘party’ in the tropics will be centred around the pool and given that this is Brazil, will not start too early, finish quite late, and feature music and dancing. And why not? “What a considerate chap” we all thought. But already a sense of foreboding had descended on us. “Early to bed, early to rise …. ” is not something understood by adolescents ….. so it was probable that we would not have a quiet night.
At about 2000 the music started; we learned later they were simply testing the sound levels ….. presumably to ensure that the guests were not deafened. Personally I thought they should have tested the sound levels in this house …. for in addition to the microphone producing that piercing high-pitched feedback noise, and the DJ going through that ‘testing 1,2,3’ (but in Brazilian Portuguese of course!) routine that seems to be in their DNA, levels of the base frequencies created an oscillation that began to reverberate through the whole house. Windows vibrated as the sound waves crashed against the glass. Wow! Conversation was impossible here so how did they communicate next door?
There is a law in Brazil that says that any noise should be kept to a minimum after 2200. A little restrictive you might think and unreasonable; probably ignored by everyone? (You may recall from PC 9 that the last entrant to the Carnival Samba Schools’ Parade was not scheduled to start until 0330!!) But there clearly is a need to have some guidelines about noise within an urban area. In London, Hyde Park has become a popular venue for large music events, but the residents whose houses overlook it have persuaded the council to enforce a “no music after 2330” rule. Those who earn a living playing a guitar or singing songs have long been known for poor time keeping; often gigs will run late. Not any more in Hyde Park I hear, particularly after a party when the electricity supply was turned off at 1130, even though Sir Paul McCartney was only halfway through ‘Hey Jude’ or some such!
Years ago I called out the local council’s ‘noise abatement team’ in Wandsworth, London because an Evangelical church had set up rehearsals three times a week in a community hall at the bottom of my minute 12ft garden. Whilst ‘Gospel’ singing has a certain attraction, the voice of the pastor screaming and shouting for some devil or other to leave the apparently tormented soul was too much. I’m sure we have a list of pet hates? Neighbours who love screeching female opera singers, neighbours whose choice of music is not ours, neighbours whose way of communicating with each other is to scream and shout ….. the yapping of a small dog, the DIY enthusiast drilling and hammering past midnight …… the list goes on. But it needs a bit of give and take, doesn’t it, tolerance and acceptance of someone else’s rights in exchange for recognition of one’s own!
Two years ago when we were here at the turn of the year, one party somewhere within the community was quite loud, but hey it was New Year’s Eve! We’ll simply close the windows and put the air conditioning on. Air conditioning plants are generally quite noisy and this would drown out the party noise! It was an extremely hot night; some 30°C approaching midnight. Then the electricity went out, something which happens here in Rio quite often. So …… no air conditioning …… and because of the heat we need to have the windows open ……. so the party came into the bedroom ……. or so it seemed. Never sure what to do? Get up and attempt to join the party? Read? Tossing and turning in a hot bedroom leaves one exhausted come the morning.
Back to this Saturday evening. So we called the young man, Felipe I think his name was, to say the noise was too much. “Oh! We’re just trying the noise levels.” “Come around” we said ……. hoping of course that he would hear, feel (!), the noise in this house and do something about it. “Ah! We are trying to raise money for our ‘Prom’ by having a party.” “How many people are you expecting?” we asked, as the house is not a huge. “450” I think it was at this point Celina and I decided we were potentially on a hiding to nothing. Four hundred and fifty people make a huge amount of noise just talking, let alone having some music playing and as the noise levels rise, the volume is turned up to compensate. Whilst it was not our concern how 450 youngsters were going to fit into the house and garden, we reckoned it was time for Plan B.
Saturday night in Rio is always a busy night for hotels, and currently Rio is hosting a Rocking Rio festival with the likes of Rod Stewart, Elton John, Queen etc, so spare accommodation is at a premium. But a hotel somewhere was going to be essential, if we were going to get a smidgen of sleep. Eventually we found a room in the Sheraton on a promontory below Vidigal, one of Rio’s favelas. We drove over about 2200 and checked in. Hotels in Brazil tend to add a service charge and ‘taxes’ as extras to the quoted room rate ….. and breakfast was not included …. eventually we got an upgrade, free breakfast and made our way to the 19th floor. Noisy? Well, the nightclub at the top of Vidigal was pumping out its music, the room was near a noisy lift shaft and, despite the double glazing, there was a fair amount of traffic noise. Hey! Hoh! How lucky to be able to escape the local party.
Big hotel chains have a certain sameness about them; maybe that’s why some people like them, the certainty of facilities and decor, of the breakfast …….. but the view of the sea and beach, of a seaside condominium, of Vidigal higgledy piggledy up the hillside and, if I craned my neck far enough around, a view of one of the two mountain peaks that are called Os Dois Irmāos (The Two Brothers) was stunning.
Peace and calm had returned to Rua Iposeira when we arrived back on Sunday morning. The ‘rave’ was over, the only reminder a few empty bottles in the street and odd pieces of the ‘entry wristband’. I’ve called this PC ‘One person’s party can be another person’s nightmare’. And so it was last Saturday, here in tropical Rio de Janerio.
Richard Yates – firstname.lastname@example.org