Brazil Carnival Samba

Brazil carnival samba performances figure among the main highlights of the country’s Carnival season. Rio de Janeiro puts on the most renowned of these performances, so it is where most tourists go to see the action. Many of the samba performers in Rio don audacious costumes, and often times, plenty of skin is shown. Knowing this in advance can come in handy, especially if you lean more towards the prudent side. Either way, serving as a witness to Brazil Carnival samba performances is something that won’t soon be forgotten.

Samba History

Samba History
Samba History  Image: (flickr)

Samba is both a Brazilian dance and musical genre that has established itself as one of the country’s main cultural expressions. Originating in the Brazilian state of Bahia, its roots are largely related to the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. Samba was developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The first recorded song to be considered as true samba was Pelo Telefone, or By Phone, in English. It was recorded in 1917 and had a major role in the establishment of samba as a popular musical genre. From there, Samba began to spread across Brazil. Early on, it was mostly associated with carnival, and this association continues to the modern day. Helping to popularize samba on the international level was the Portuguese-born Brazilian actress, Carmen Miranda (1909-1955).

Samba Schools

Samba schools are clubs or dancing schools that devote themselves to practicing and performing samba. Traditionally associated with particular neighborhoods, their origins are closely linked to the development of carnival in Rio de Janeiro and with the creation of samba in general. The first samba schools began competing in contests in 1929, and today, the carnival contests that they compete in are very much at the heart of Rio’s carnival celebrations. The most renowned of these competitions is the Samba School Parade, which features the 14 top-ranked schools in the city and is held over the two days leading up to Mardi Gras day, or Fat Tuesday. The Rio de Janeiro venue of choice for the Samba School Parade is the aptly-named Sambadromo. Tickets for this lavish event are hard to get, and should you have trouble attaining them, you can always hope to watch a samba school rehearsal. Well before the Samba School Parade gets under way, the samba schools around the city host Saturday rehearsals that are often open to the general public.


Sambadromo  Image: (flickr)

The famous Sambadromo in Rio de Janeiro can be found in the downtown area. It was built with the main purpose of hosting the Samba School Parade and features a long avenue that can accommodate the lavish carnival floats. Flanking the parade avenue are spectator bleachers. The capacity of the Sambadromo is 90,000 people. Outside of the carnival season, it is occasionally used as a major concert venue. There are also plans to use the Sambadromo as a 2016 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Paralympics venue. It is interesting to note that outsiders can participate in the Samba School Parade at the Sambadromo. The samba schools open up positions to outsiders with the intent of raising funds. It also helps them increase their presence on the parade route. A low turnout by a specific school can result in the loss of critical points. If this sounds interesting to you, all that is usually required to gain the right to participate in the Samba School Parade is the purchase of a costume. You must also commit to a certain school. Costumes can often be purchased online.

Top image: (flickr)
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