BRASILIA (Reuters Life!) - Brazil's modern capital is often seen as sterile but an annual religious music festival celebrating the visit of the Three Wise Men to see Jesus showed how much soul lies behind the city's geometrical landscape.
During the "Folia de Reis" at the weekend musicians sang of religion and love accompanied by folk instruments. Three Wise Men dressed in colorful gowns, blessed the music as they kissed each group's emblematic flags at the end of the performances.
Only 20 minutes away from Brasilia's endless roundabouts and world-renowned architecture, people from all over Latin America's largest country gather on the outskirts of the city once a year to celebrate the event.
Traditional music groups visit people's houses, bringing song and dance, and sometimes even donations, in honor of the Three Wise Men who are said to have given gifts to Jesus after his birth.
"The aim is to show the identity of the rural culture of the Federal District state, which existed before the construction of Brasilia," said Volmi Batista da Silva, 52, who organized the event he says has been going on since 2001.
"Brazil's popular culture still suffers very strong discrimination. That's because the roots culture is more linked to the countryside than to urban population."
Children played at the festival and couples wearing cowboy hats and gold-buckled belts danced to the music. A woman swayed, her hands held up in the air, as if she were praying.
An old man sang of lost love, while teenagers crooned Brazilian folk music called Sertanejo.
"Sertanejo is music that touches you. It speaks of love and the countryside. That is what is our Brazil, our culture," said Deusilia Rocha Cequeira, 54, who has sold churros, a dough-based sweet, at the event for six years.
Da Silva said volunteers make the event possible because the government only covers one third of the budget through a state fund.
People said the event was under-represented because of a cultural stigma that tends to promote urban culture over that of the countryside and foreign music over more traditional Brazilian songs.
Toninho do Berrante said Brazilians too often look outside the vast country for cultural references.
"Brazilians are easily impressed. Instead of creating, they want to copy," said the 58-year-old.
Critics say the government should do more to promote events that make Brazil so culturally interesting and colorful.
"The event lacked advertisement and advertisement requires money," Cequeira added.