Rio Samba Schools Português

The Rio Samba Schools


Samba School in Rio de Janeiro


Guide to the Samba Schools in Rio de Janeiro

This page explains how the Rio samba schools work. It will also tell you how you can go to a samba school night. It gives samba night (rehearsal) details and full addresses of each samba school.

See the ranking of the Rio samba schools
2015 parading order and time-table

The Rio Samba Schools are associations or social clubs, representing a particular neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in the annual Samba Parade. They are not samba teaching institutions as their name might suggest. The Rio samba schools are at the epicenter of the Carnival culture in Brazil and much of the “samba world” revolves around them.

Their main objective is to prepare for and compete annually in the Samba Parade.

In the final months of preparations before Carnival, they hold samba nights (called rehearsals). These popular dance nights are open to anyone for a small entrance fee and provide entertainment just like night clubs do. The only difference is that you only hear samba music the whole night through, the school's samba song of the year being plaid over and over again to practice the lyrics.

The Rio samba schools are similar to huge football clubs, in many respect. They have a flag, a color-scheme and devoted (usually life-long) supporters. They clearly resemble modern corporate organizations, with several departments, sub-divisions, strategic partnerships and apply strong marketing technics. They have a fan group of enthusiastic supporters, official headquarters, workshops in Samba City and rehearsing samba halls, where followers meet, prepare for the next Carnival's Samba Parade or just spend the night dancing away.


BEIJA-FLOR

Pracinha Wallace Paes Leme 1025 - Nilópolis
Samba nights: Thursdays 21:00
Colors: blue and white
Established in 1948

2015 theme, Samba Song + all samba school info

Beija-flor Samba School
Beija flor means humming bird. It is a beloved and omnipresent bird in the Rio region. The school is based on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, in a place called Nilopolis. It is currently ranked the highest among all Rio samba schools. It has achieved the reputation of being the best school by a combination of outstanding and unparalleled artistic organizational management with a strong determination to win. It is the only school with a whole team of Carnival Designers (currently 5 of them) whereas most other schools only have one. It imposes strict rules and has the highest expectations towards all of its parading members. It began its recent winning streak in 1998 and won again in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. In recent years, if it didn't win it was very close to it. It is well-known for its creative extravagance and powerful colors.

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GRANDE RIO

Colégio São José, Av. Presidente Kennedy - Duque de Caxias
Samba nights: Fridays 22:00
Colors: red, green and white
Established in 1988

2015 theme, Samba Song + all samba school info

Samba School Grande Rio

Grande Rio is one of the newest schools, nevertheless currently one of the most successful members of the First League (Special Group). It has come close to winning in all the last 10 years. It is currently ranked the second best among all Rio samba schools. Samba School Grande Rio represents Caxias, a satellite town of Rio de Janeiro. Lots of media celebrities support and parade with them.

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IMPERATRIZ LEOPOLDINENSE

Rua Professor Lacê 235 – Ramos
Samba nights: Sundays 20:00
Colors: green, white and gold
Established in 1959

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Imperatriz Samba School

Samba School Imperatriz had its heydays right at the turn of the millennium, winning three times in a row (1999, 2000 and 2001) which is only challenged by the current favorite Beija-Flor. Its success was traditionally due to its technically excellent performances. The School's long-time female Carnival Designer, Rosa Magalhães makes idiosyncratic fairy-tale like artistic creations.

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MANGUEIRA

Rua Visconde de Niterói 1072 - Mangueira
Samba nights: Saturdays 22:00
Colors: green and pink
Established in 1928

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Mangueira Samba School

Manguiera is considered as Brazil's most popular samba school due to its old tradition, a very strong support community and the most successful samba hall. It was the winner of the first Samba Parade held in the Sambodromo and has been ranked very high year by year ever since, for its consistently strong performances. It is the oldest among the existing Rio samba schools.

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MOCIDADE

Rua Coronel Tamarindo 38 - Padre Miguel
Samba nights: Saturdays 22:00
Colors: green and white
Established in 1955

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Mocidade Samba School

It is one of the oldest samba schools in Rio de Janeiro, having a long history of over 50 years. It is well-known for its futuristic creations such as having had the one and only flying parader on the Avenue. Similar to some other old schools, like Estácio, Portela and Imperio Serrano, it remains mainly in the First League (Special Group) due to its long history. Once it was really famous for its percussionists. However it does not capitalize on its old traditions as successfully as Mangueira does and usually does not even score among the first 6 to be able to parade again on Champions' Saturday.

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PORTELA

Rua Clara Nunes 81 – Madureira
Samba nights: Wednesdays 20:00, Fridays 22:00
Colors: blue and white
Established in 1923

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Portela Samba School

Portela is one of the oldest schools despite several name changes in the past. Only its symbol, the eagle, remains unchanged. It is considered to be the oldest Rio samba group, however not the oldest school. Samba school Portela used to be one of the very best schools for a long time running, winning 21 times, an all-time record. However it had somewhat lost its excellence since the 1980s for a long period. It had only managed to remain in the First League (Special Group) for years mainly because of its history and fame. However, it has recovered its original glory in the last few years again.

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INOCENTES DE BELFORD ROXO

Av. Boulervard, 1.741 – Parque São Vicente – Belford Roxo
Samba nights: Fridays 22:00
Colors: Red, Blue and white
Established in 1993

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Inocentes de Belford Roxo

O Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Inocentes de Belford Roxo foi fundado no dia 11 de julho de 1993. A escola, que sucedeu a Unidos da Matriz, tem entres seus fundadores Luiz de Bastos, Sebastião Quirino, Jairo da Silva, Aristotelina de Oliveira, Abílio Del Rey e Walter Sardinha.

A escola desfila no carnaval carioca desde a sua fundação. Seu primeiro desfile, em 1994, teve como enredo "Alô alô carnaval, taí Carmem Miranda". O primeiro título da Inocentes de Belford Roxo aconteceu no Grupo de Acesso C, em 1998, e, no ano seguinte, foi vice-campeã do Grupo de Acesso B, com o enredo “Viva a Baixada, longos passos do progresso rumo ao Terceiro Milênio”. Em 2000, estreando no Grupo de Acesso, a escola homenageou o município de Petrópolis, obtendo a quinta colocação e a permanência no grupo.

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SALGUEIRO

Rua Silva Teles 104 - Tijuca
Samba nights: Saturdays 22:00
Colors: red and white
Established in 1953

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Salgueiro Samba School

Champion of the 2009 Parade. It is a truly elitist school attracting many celebrities. It was originally among the first schools to show-case the achievements of the Afro-Brazilians, in stark contrast to its current middle-class fan club. Salgueiro became really famous in the 1960s for its outstanding samba dance performers. It has a very popular samba hall close to the city center, in one of the safest areas (compared to the other schools based on the hills with slums). Most years, it uses " fire" in its parades, the symbol of the school.

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SAO CLEMENTE

Av. Presidente Vargas 3102 - Centro
Samba nights: Tuesdays 20:00, Saturdays 22:00
Colors: yellow and black
Established in 1961

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Sao Clemente Samba School float

Sao Clemente's main characteristic is its irreverence combined with samba themes that allude to the Brazilians quality of life. In 1984 for example, the samba school brought to the Sambodromo the theme "Don´t run, don´t kill, don´t die: the devil is free in the streets" - referring to the chaos and violence of Rio's streets. In the following year, the school presented the samba "Let's abide in a house!", an entertaining satire about Brazil's serious housing shortage. In 1987, the school broke new grounds, having among its vanguard commission real-life street children, with its year's theme: "Tarmac Skippers", which talked about Rio's street children.

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UNIAO DA ILHA

Estrada do Galeão 322 - Ilha do Governador
Samba nights: Tuesdays 20:00, Saturdays 22:00
Colors: blue, red and white
Established in 1953

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Uniao da Ilha do Governador Samba School

Samba School Uniao da Ilha is mainly known for its irreverent themes. It all began when a group of friends, watching their island's (Ilha do Governador) street bands and smaller samba schools, decided that their district should also have a proper samba school to represent them. It had remained among the less significant second and third "class" samba schools for some time until 1974, when it eventually came first in the Preliminary Parades of the Second League Schools. Consequently, in the following year, it could finally participate in the First League (Special Group)'s Samba Parade. Having produced many great parades and paying special attention to its public relations, the school has turned into one of the First League (Special Group)'s most likable samba schools. It has taken to the Avenue some frivolous, cheerful and lively parades, which has become the school's hallmark. The school's costumes are usually light, without much metalwork or extension, making the marchers' parade easier. Although it has never been a champion in the First League (Special Group), it has composed one of the most popular samba songs still played and sung today, such as 1977's "Sunday" and "Good, Nice and even Cheap" in 1980. 1982's samba song: "Is today really The day?" became one of the most remembered songs in the Rio Carnival history.

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UNIDOS DA TIJUCA

Clube dos Portuários, Av. Francisco Bicalho 47 – São Cristóvão
Samba nights: Fridays and Saturdays 20:00
Colors: yellow and blue
Established in 1931

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Unidos da Tijuca samba school

Unidos da Tijuca is the third oldest Rio samba school. It became noticed again in 2004, as a surprise to everyone, with its creative and innovative artistic work, viewed as controversial by some. It is the school which traditionally pays most homage to Brazil's background as a Portuguese colony. It has been extremely strong in recent years and viewed as the most creative and daring school by many. Its samba hall is very popular easily reachable, and attracts also many gay men.

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VILA ISABEL

Av. 28 de Setembro 382 - Vila Isabel
Samba nights: Tuesdays 20:00, Saturdays 22:00
Colors: blue and white
Established in 1946

2015 theme, Samba Song + all school info

Vila Isabel samba school

Vila Isabel is very old school with lots of history and tradition. However it almost went into oblivion not a long time ago. It lingered in the Second League for a long time until a few years ago when it re-joined the First League (Special Group) in 1995 with an astonishing win. After that, in 1996, it hired one of the most energetic, up-and-coming carnival designers and has scored very high again in the last couple of years. It is currently ranked the third best among all Rio samba schools. We also recommend the school's popular and easily accessible samba hall.

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Samba School History

Carnival has been celebrated in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro for centuries, but samba schools were only first inaugurated in Rio Carnival in the 1920s.

At the end of the 19th century, immigrants from Bahia state brought with them the tradition of playing candomble and dancing a bahian dance called the samba. In the slums of downtown Rio, a place referred to as 'Little Africa', they established a number of religious houses devoted to religious ceremonies where they played and danced the early forms of samba.

Rio Samba School Float

However African religions were illegal in a dominantly catholic Brazil. These roots of samba remained invisible to the white elite for a long time.

The samba schools' parading structure originates from groups marching during Carnival in the 19th century. In that period of time they already had the Vanguard Commission, a chosen theme, floats, and the flag bearing couple, all of which are essential parts of today's samba schools.

Rio Samba School flaot

The first group to call itself a samba school was a group founded in 1928 and called Deixa Falar, which came from the district of Estácio, located on the hill above Praça Onze, considered the cradle of samba. They called themselves samba school because they met right next door to a local children's school.

Deixa Falar and Mangueira were both founded at the end of the 1920's, Deixa Falar first, in 1926, and Mangueira soon after, in 1928. Deixa Falar was disbanded and later refounded as Estácio de Sá. Mangueira is the oldest existing samba school, although it was not the first.

Rio Samba School Mangueira float

Deixa Falar paraded for the first time on Praça Onze in 1929. In 1930 there was already 5 schools parading including Mangueira and Vai Como Pode, later known as Portela. The parade of the samba schools had become a contest, which Deixa Falar won in 1930 and 1931. By 1932 there were 19 schools parading. In 1933 the parade started to be sponsored by the biggest Brazilian media group 'O Globo'. They established a list of 4 marking criteria for the judges.

Many of the Rio de Janeiro samba schools were originally part of a soccer club in the area where they were founded, such as Porto da Pedra.

Rio Samba School float

In the last few years Rio Branco, the main financial street downtown, has become the principal place for the carnival bands and groups to parade in over carnival weekend. Although there are parades in almost all parts of the city at that time. The street becomes packed with groups of revelers from mid afternoon to the small hours of the following morning (starting from the Cinelândia end of the street). You can also find  many street bands around Lapa, all through Carnival

Working Grounds

According to their two functions, the Rio samba schools usually have two physical locations

  • the samba halls, function as huge dance clubs for all types of people (the young and the aged) playing live samba music by the schools' percussion bands. You will also find the schools' main administrative center and president at these locations
  • the production units are where the floats and some of the costumes are produced. Since 2005, all of the principle Rio samba schools in the First League (Special Group) have their production facilities at the same location, called Samba City. It is open to all visitors.

The samba schools represent the community spirit of a neighborhood, which is usually a particular shanty-town (favela). They bring a sense of community and belonging. The schools have a huge impact on their neighborhoods. They are the best organized entities in the slums, with thousands of people joining rehearsals, samba nights and carnival preparations. They are often politically involved, too. They are absolutely essential parts of Rio's life and culture. Everyone from Rio truly supports the football teams and the samba schools.

Mocidade Samba School float

Do not think of the samba schools as colleges where they teach you how to dance samba. They are not teaching institutions as their name suggests and do not offer samba classes. However you can attend any of their samba nights and learn how to dance just by watching others. The origin of the name samba school comes from the fact, as legend suggests, that the early sambistas used to rehearse in an empty lot near a teachers' college. "We also teach! Here the students learn to breathe and live samba!"

Vila Isabel

There are over 70 samba schools in Rio de Janeiro and they all parade during the 4 days of Carnival. They pick themes, write music and lyrics, make costumes and floats and practice all year to succeed in their parades. They are subject to a strict hierarchy and are organized into different competitive leagues. They are the First League (Special Group), the Second League, and Groups C, D and E. Schools in the First and Second Leagues parade in the Sambodromo. All other samba schools parade on the streets and are free to watch and join in.

The biggest, most spectacular and leading 12 schools are from the First League (Special Group). They create a pageant with 3,000-5,000 people to compete in the Samba Parade in the Sambodromo on Carnival Sunday and Monday. See their 2010 Parade Schedule.

Rio SAmba School Mangueira drummers

Each year a lower scoring school is downgraded from the First League (Special Group) to the Second League, which comprises the less successful schools which also parade in the Sambodromo. Inversely the best school of the year in the Second League joins the First League (Special Group) in the following year.

The lowest rated schools parading in the Sambodromo belong to the Base Group (Group B), They are smaller and less spectacular, each school having approximately 1,500 participants.

Each samba school has its own distinctive colors (of its flag) and costume style. The color scheme is reflected in many parts of a school's parade.

Vila Isabel samba school

The schools raise money from ticket sales for their samba nights, television broadcasts and dance events. Some of the money given by members and sponsorships comes from illegal gambling. They are a true mixture of big business and big fun.

Samba Nights

The samba schools offer samba nights (rehearsals for the Samba Parade) at their samba halls, which are open to anyone. Going to one is the best way to make contact with real samba and learn how to dance it. The nights are informal and very popular, a bit like a mega club with people of all ages, with lots of dancing and boozing.

Such a night is definitely an experience not to be missed and which won't be forgotten. On these samba nights, the school's samba song of the year is repeated over and over again, to be learned in preparation for their Carnival Parade.

You can go to the samba night of any school. Three of the best known ones, Mangueira, Unidos da Tijuca and Salgueiro, are located within a reasonable cab ride from the South End (Zona Sul).

Other samba halls are in the distant suburbs, but are not a place to wander about without someone who knows his way around. Some of them are very far away, even outside of Rio and can be quite rough.

We recommend going to Mangueira which has the biggest, safest and most famous hall with many tourists and lots of security (even so you might be a bit intimidated if not shocked, at first). A note of warning - the samba halls are in very poor areas, often on the borders of the slums so don't go flashy, dress down and do not have anything very valuable on you. However do go!

Imperio Serrano Samba School

People usually arrive much later than the advertised starting time, usually well after midnight. Plan to arrive anytime after 23:30. Go by taxi (for safety reasons). There will also be plenty of cabs outside when you are finally ready to go home.

There is usually an entrance fee of between R$15.00 and R$40.00 (about US$20).

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