I recently entered a brief on Ideas Tap, to write something on the word carnival...

You can’t fully understand the meaning of the word ‘rhythm’ until you witness a carnival. Music and movement collide in a manner that should resemble chaos. But the jumping, spinning, slow swaying – mixed with laughter, excited conversation, too many instruments to individually decipher and contrasting music from every angle – collides in the air and forms a seemingly deliberate, captivating rhythm that can never be replicated.

More overwhelming is the vividness of colour. Burning shades of reds and oranges that match the sun’s heat, thirst-quenching waves of blues and greens, and rich purples and yellows. Vast expanses of colour mix with the intricate beading of costumes, causing a slight disorientation.

Steam rises from every surface as the sun’s touch ruthlessly blazes down, blurring the ground with its fluorescent sparkle. The smells of alcohol and a multitude of different foods meet, stagnant in the still air. Masses of people cover any evidence of nature. The pattern of the crowd makes a slow, swirling motion. And like a kaleidoscope, the sight isn’t easy to capture with just two eyes.

Silently, and without attracting attention at first, clouds slowly appear from both sides of earth, eating up the blue and forming a thick, grey mass overhead. A group of dancers, barely detectable through their feathers, sequins, bells and masks, come to a halt as they detect a thickening of the air. The subtraction of their sounds leaves a disquieting gap in the atmosphere.

Within seconds the awareness starts spreading, hurling the atmosphere off balance. Some people move towards the trees lining the streets, others freeze and look up at the sky. As the clouds close in on the last of the sun’s light, the reflection and glow of the crowd evaporates and leaves a realness on the faces of the carnival.

Heavy, cold beads erupt down from the clouds – the rain starts in an instant. Screams of incredulity fill the streets as ice cold drops fall onto warm skin. A gap forms in the middle of the streets as people run to find cover. Some stay still, letting their intricate make-up swirl, mix and trickle down their bodies. The earthy smell of rain quickly meets the weakening aromas of food and drink.

Everyone becomes wet and heavy, their colours muted and dull, and the flamboyant surface of the carnival falls into something deeper. People crowd together, their intoxication and excitement giving into reality. The combination of music becomes heavier, duller and dreamier as it passes through the wet airwaves, and the rain falls with such a violence that it splashes up from the ground, joining the pavements and roads into one.

Costumes and props drop to the floor, soaked in rainwater and looked down upon by their owners as they watch the intensifying greyness with a look of blame. Feathers and glitter run downhill, glistening and forgotten. For a moment the sounds of laughter, disappointment and surprise prevail over the pelting and splashing.

With the rain’s force still unfaltering, the crowd slowly begins to thin and the discarded, wet clothes and plastic cups turn into the aftermath. The silence becomes louder as the rain gradually gives up, and a ray of sun shines through the clouds, giving light to the wet, empty ground.

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