Bip Bip – a Rio institution

Bip Bip is not much more than a hole in the wall, but since the late 1960s it has been one of Rio’s favourite spots to catch a live roda de samba (informal samba played around a table). It was a bit chilly as we made our way over to the venue, wrapped in raincoats we were better dressed for a wet night out in Brighton, but obviously the weather is no deterrent for those wanting to be part of this authentic experience and we had no trouble finding the place as it was one of the few bars showing any signs of life on a miserable Tuesday night.

Apart from the music, the other attraction is Bip Bip owner Alfredo. When we arrived, he was seated by the door, raised up on a stack of three plastic chairs so that he could reach his ledger and phone (an antiquated machine that he probably bought right when the bar opened in 1968); he looked like a Brazilian version of a Dickensian character. From here he kept a very keen eye on proceedings. Not known for his patience, anyone who dared to make too much noise during one of the songs received a bearded scowl and very public telling off. I incurred his wrath by clapping at the end of one song  – apparently one clicks ones fingers in appreciation. I was not aware of correct samba etiquette but lesson learned for next time.

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Inside there is literally room for the table at which the musicians sit, a large refrigerator (from which you help yourself to beer and Alfredo instinctively keeps tally of who has had what), and standing room for a few people. We sat outside for a while enjoying the music and a chilled beer and then, feeling a bit cold, we decided it was time to head home.

Just before we left a couple pulled up in a car to drop off two large bags of blankets which Alfredo collects for the local homeless who live on the streets in the area. Seems that he may have a bark worse than his bite.  Personally I’m not chancing anything and have been practicing clicking my fingers all day today just in case we decide to stop by again.

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