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Image: Samba dancer
Felipe Dana  /  AP
A dancer of Porto da Pedra samba school parades during Carnival celebrations Monday at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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updated 2/20/2012 12:48:18 PM ET 2012-02-20T17:48:18

English speakers get their moment in the Carnival sun on Monday as a wild, Beatles-themed street party shakes it up, baby, with a samba swing to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."

"Sargento Pimenta," Portuguese for "Sergeant Pepper," is one of more than 400 raucous street parties that spring up throughout Rio de Janeiro during Carnival season. Hundreds of thousands of people turn out for the largest of the "blocos," packed, sweaty open-air dance parties where the crowd sings along to a repetitive medley of Carnival songs — usually in Portuguese, of course.

As many as 850,000 tourists descend on Rio for the five-day-long Carnival free-for-all, and blocos offer plenty of nonverbal opportunities for fun: If drinking till you pass out doesn't suit your fancy, you might try racking up as many snogging partners as humanly possible during a single street party, a common Carnival game here.

Sambadrome showdown: Inside Rio carnival's big battle
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But even with such tantalizing diversions, it must be acknowledged that singing along to the blasting music — usually played live by a band atop a sound truck, with a cordoned-off percussion section trailing behind — is at least half the fun.

Enter Sargento Pimenta, the brainchild of Gustavo Gitelman, a music lover and doctor by trade.

Gitelman quickly rounded up an enthusiastic group of Beatles aficionados — so many, in fact that the Fab Four became more of a Fab 70 at the party's debut last year.

The group gives the Beatles repertoire a Brazilian tweak, adapting "All My Loving" to the peppy beat of a traditional Carnival "marchinha," or march, and infusing "Hard Day's Night" with a Rio funk sound. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" morphs into a samba. Even the melancholic "Hey Jude" is spiked with an infectious upbeat energy.

All the songs are sung in English, much to the delight of Anglophone visitors, many of whom can fully participate in the bloco experience for the first time.

The group's debut last year was so successful that the crowd was packed so tight it became something of a health hazard. It has moved to a more spacious location for Monday's show. Tens of thousands of costumed revelers are expected to flood the Flamengo Park, off of Rio's iconic Guanabara Bay, for the event.

Sargento Pimenta is not the sole offbeat bloco offering. There's also the "Blocao," an animal-themed street party where pet owners in shorts and flip-flops parade their cats and dogs, dressed up as pirates, princesses and cave-pets; and Paraty, a coastal colonial city south of Rio, is home to the "Bloco da Lama," or "Mud Bloco," where revelers tramp through, dive into and otherwise cover themselves in sticky mud.

And for those who like to take a less participative role in Carnival celebrations, Rio's iconic Sambadrome samba school competition moves into its second and final day on Monday night.

Nearly 100,000 paying spectactors turn out for the all-night spectacle, which includes troupes of samba dancers whose costumes consist largely of body glitter and oversized feathered wings, older women in pup tent-sized hoop skirts and giant floats covered in outlandish, oversized decoration. The parade starts shortly after sundown and doesn't finish till dawn, with the winner out of the 13 participating schools announced later in the week.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Rio de Janeiro

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  1. A view from the top

    An aerial view of the 'Christ the Redeemer' statue on top of Corcovado mountain on July 27, 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Michael Regan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Playing some football

    Men play football on Ipanema Beach ahead of the Preliminary Draw of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 28, 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Michael Regan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Open-air stadium

    A view of Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on May 15, 2013. (Marcelo Sayao / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Refreshed seats

    Workers remove seats as they begin the renovation of the Maracana Stadium ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2010. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Hot temperatures

    Locals and tourists enjoy Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, on July 25, 2012. An unusual 32° C (89.6° F) winter temperature is hitting the city which, according to experts, is due to a warm Amazon mass that prevents the cold front from the south from arriving. (Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Riding the waves

    A body surfer rides a wave during high tide in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on May 22, 2012. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Sky high

    A cable car travels to and from Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, on Aug. 18, 2008. The cable car leads to one of Rio's most visited sites, with 800,000 tourists per year. (Bruno Domingos / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Urban dwellings

    Homes crowd the Rocinha shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 22, 2012. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Urban forest

    A man walks with his bicycle through the Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro, on July 29, 2012. The National Park of Tijuca is the world's biggest urban forest at 33 square kilometers (12.7 square miles). (Pilar Olivares / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Walking on the beach

    A fisherman boy walks amid herons in Mage, deep into the Bay of Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 3, 2012. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Future Olympic site

    Aerial picture taken at the "City of Rock" -- which is to be the site of the future Olympic Village when Rio hosts the 2016 Olympic Games -- on the opening day of the music festival Rock in Rio, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sept. 23, 2011. (Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Across the water

    General view of the Bridge of Knowledge designed by Alexandre Chan at the entrance to the 2016 Olympic city in Rio de Janeiro on March 20, 2012. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Ipanema in the distance

    Birds overfly the Cagarras Islands, five km away from Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 6, 2010. Several species of marine birds in risk of extinction inhabit the islands making them one of the most interesting spots for tourism in Rio de Janeiro. (Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Life-size art

    A passerby looks at a life-size body sculpture by British artist Antony Gormley, part of the Event Horizon installation, in Candelaria square in Rio de Janeiro's downtown, on August 8, 2012. Gormley's exhibition in the city includes works from Amazonian Field, Critical Mass, Event Horizon and Breathing Room among others. (Antonio Scorza / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. An artistic tribute

    Artist Jorge Selaron poses while sitting on the staircase he created, the Escadaria Selarón, located between Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, on July 27, 2010. Selaron began his project, which is a work in progress, in 1990 with some 2,000 tiles collected from over 60 countries. The Chilean-born artist calls the project a tribute to the Brazilian people. (Clarissa Cavalheiro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. New transport

    Cable cars are seen in front of the Penha church after Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff opened the new transportation system in Rio de Janeiro on July 7, 2011. The cable car system in the Alemao slum is part of the effort to crack down on crime and modernize infrastructure as the city prepares to host 2014 World Cup soccer matches and the 2016 Olympic Games. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Favela on a mountainside

    A "pacified" favela, or squatter settlement, is seen on a forested mountainside in the mist on June 21, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio de Janeiro's authorities have successfully "pacified" a number of formerly crime-ridden favelas in the city although the expansion of favelas due to a housing shortage has contributed to Rio's rainforest destruction. Many are constructed in the mountains and hillsides that surround the city, resulting in deforestation. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Surfing

    Teenagers walk to ride waves at Arpoador Beach on the final day of the Rio + 20 conference on June 22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Park with a nice view

    A man reads a newspaper at the Quinta da Boa Vista park, on May 9, 2013. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Majestic sunrise

    Two Urubus fly at sunrise over the "Lagoa" lake of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 29, 2012. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Traditional dance

    People dance the Jongo, an Afro-Brazilian dance where the samba derives some of its roots from, in Rio de Janeiro, on July 28, 2012. The Jongo ritual is a legacy of African slaves who worked in Brazil's coffee plantations in the 19th century and is celebrated as a tradition mostly in slums and former slaves communities. (Ricardo Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Famous aqueduct

    Rio de Janeiro's Arcos da Lapa square on March 26, 2011. (Ricardo Moraes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Festive celebrations

    A dancer of Mangueira samba school parades during carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Feb. 21, 2012. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A Rio sunrise

    Sugarloaf Mountain is silhouetted against the early-morning skies as the sun begins to rise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the host city for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012. The Earth summit included high-profile talks among some 130 top leaders from nations around the globe. (Felipe Dana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Preliminary Draw of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil - Previews
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    Above: Slideshow (24) Rio grand
  2. Image:
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    Slideshow (29) Carnival celebrations around the world

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