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Easter In Rio

KORVA COLEMAN, HOST:

Christians in much of the world are celebrating Easter today. That includes in Latin America's largest nation, Brazil. Our correspondent there, Philip Reeves, sent us this postcard from Rio about the role played during this religious season by one of his more unusual neighbors.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: It's kind of fun being the neighbor of a king. He isn't literally royal. Yet in this part of the world, this king is as popular as the queen is in England. He certainly has a better voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMO E GRANDE O MEU AMOR POR VOCE")

ROBERTO CARLOS: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: Roberto Carlos was nicknamed the King of Latin music decades ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMO E GRANDE O MEU AMOR POR VOCE")

CARLOS: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: Some compared his popularity with Elvis and Frank Sinatra. At 76, his sentimental songs are still adored by a multitude of fans in Brazil and beyond. Carlos's apartment is a stone's throw from my home in Rio in a neighborhood called Urca. Urca sits at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain on the edge of Guanabara Bay. Its seawall is populated by fishermen, hungry white herons and crowds of beer drinkers. Across the bay on top of a giant spike of granite stands the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Urca has a beach. Yet for many residents here, Roberto the King Carlos is the real reason our neighborhood's truly exotic. When they bring you here, taxi drivers will often tell you with excitement that he lives here. Yet we don't actually see Roberto Carlos often. In fact, I've only glimpsed the king once, hair streaming behind him as he glided by in a big, white convertible. People on the street shouted, it's the king, the king. You see people love him here, says resident Guiomar Bitetti (ph).

GUIOMAR BITETTI: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: "Living in his neighborhood's a real privilege," she says.

(SOUNDBITE OF RINGING CHURCH BELL)

REEVES: A crowd is gathering outside a small, white, Catholic Church by the water. This is Roberto Carlos's local church.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: It's just after sunset. These people are here for the annual Good Friday procession. There are men and women, young and old, carrying candles. There are youths pushing bikes and people with babies and pet dogs. They set off through Urca's narrow streets behind four men carrying a miniature effigy of the crucified Christ on a stretcher. A fan with loudspeakers brings up the rear.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: This is a traditional Christian ceremony, yet in Brazil, religion and popular culture are easily fused.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG)

CARLOS: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: As the procession moves along Urca's seawall past the boozers and fishermen, it's to the music of Roberto Carlos, our neighbor, the king.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG)

CARLOS: (Singing in foreign language).

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SONG)

CARLOS: (Singing in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

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