Carnival has been celebrated in Brazil for centuries, but the first Samba School has been founded in Rio de Janeiro Carnival in 1920.
In the end of 19th. century, immigrants from Bahia had brought with the tradition to play capoeira and dance a Bahian rhythm called Samba. In the Rio de Janeiro downtown slums, a place known as "Little Africa", had stablished a number of religious houses dedicated to ceremonies where they played and danced to a primary mode of samba.
However, African religions were illegal in a mostly Catholic Brazil. Those Samba roots remained invisible for the white nobles for a long time.
The Parading structures of Samba Schools are provenient of groups that used to parade in Carnival in the 19th. Even in that moment, they already had included a Senior Comission, a theme, floats and the flag couple, which are essential to nowadays Samba Schools.
The first group to call itself a Samba School was known as Deixa Falar, from the Estácio district- located above Praça Onze, considered the cradle of Samba. They called themselves a Samba School because they used to meet next door to a local elementary school.
Deixa Falar and Mangueira were both founded in the late 1920s; Deixa Falar first in 1926 and Mangueira shortly thereafter in 1928. Deixa Falar was dissolved and subsequently inaugurated as Estácio de Sá. Mangueira is the oldest existing samba school, however, it was not the first.
Deixa Falar paraded for the first time in Praça Onze, in 1929. In 1930 there were already five samba schools parading, including Mangueira and Vai Como Pode, known later as Portela. The five Samba Schools parade became a contest, that Deixa Falar won in 1930 and 1931. In 1932, there were nineteen Schools parading. In 1933, the Parades became sponsored by the biggest media group in Brazil, "O Globo". They had stablished a list of four evaluation categories to the judges.
Many of the Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools were originally local soccer teams of their districts, such as Porto da Pedra and Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel.
Samba schools offer samba nights on their halls, which are open to anyone. Going to a Samba School is the best way to make contact with real samba and learn. The nights are totally informal and with great reception, like a mega club with people of all ages, with lots of dancing and fun.
A hall rehearsal is definitely an unforgettable and unforgettable experience. On these samba nights, the samba-plot of the year is repeated, to be learned in preparation for the Carnival parade.
You can go to the court rehearsal of any school. Four of the best known ones (Mangueira, Unidos da Tijuca, Salgueiro and Vila Isabel) are located near the South Side and Rio de Janeiro downtown, and the price of a taxi from the South Side is reasonable.
Other Samba Blocks are in the distant suburbs, so it's not advisable to go without someone who knows their way back. Some of them are very far, even outside the metropolitan area of Rio.
We recommend going to Mangueira, which has the biggest, safest and most famous hall, with lots of tourists and lots of security (although you can feel intimidated, if not shocked, at first). A piece of advice: the Samba Schools halls are in very poor areas, often at the slum frontier, so do not dress in flashy and don't take your valuables.
People usually arrive much later than the announced time of departure, usually after midnight. You can arrive anytime after 23:30. Go by taxi (for security reasons). There is also plenty of taxis outside by the end of the samba night.
There's usually entrance fee between R$ 15,00 and R$ 30,00
Live Carnival and fall in love with this lifetime experience!
Because of its two functions, Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools generally have two physical locations.
The Samba Schools halls work as huge dance clubs for people of all ages, playing live music on Schools' drumming bands. Also there is the administrative center and president in these places. The sheds are where allegorical and some of the costumes are produced. Since 2005, all Rio samba schools in the Special Group have their production facilities, the sheds, in the same place, called Cidade do Samba (Samba City). It is open to all visitors.
Samba Schools represent the community spirit of a district, usually a suburban district or community. They bring a sense of community and belonging. Schools have a huge impact on their districts as they are the best organized entities in their districts, with thousands of people engaging in rehearsals and carnival preparations. They are often politically involved as well. They are absolutely essential pieces of life in Rio de Janeiro and culture. Everyone in Rio really cheers for Samba Schools as hard as they cheer for their soccer teams.
Don't think of Samba Schools as courses where they teach you to dance samba. They are not teaching institutions, as the name may suggest, and do not offer samba classes. However, you can participate in their rehearsals and learn to dance just by observing others. The origin of the name "Samba School" comes from the fact, as the legend suggests, that the samba musicians initially rehearsed on a vacant lot near a school. "We also teach! Here the students learn to breathe and live the samba!"
There are more than 70 samba schools in Rio de Janeiro and they all parade during the 4 days of Carnival. They choose the plots, write songs and lyrics, make costumes and floats and rehearsals throughout the year to succeed in their parades. They are subject to a rigid hierarchy and are organized into six competitive leagues: Main Group, Preliminary Group and Groups B, C, D and E. The first two groups parade in the Sambodrome. All other Samba Schools parade in the streets and are free to watch and join in.
The twelve biggest and most important schools in Rio de Janeiro compose the Main Group. They form a contest with 3,000-5,000 spectators to compete on the Samba Aveue at the Sambadromo at Carnival on Sunday and Monday. See here the programming of the 2018 Parades.
Each year, the lowest scoring school is downgraded from the Main Group to the Preliminary Group (also called Group A). The Preiminary Group comprises 10 smaller schools that also parade in the Sambódromo, on Friday and Saturday. Conversely, the best school of the year in Group A joins the Task Force the following year.
The school in Preliminary Group with the worst use of parade in the Sambodromo is downgraded to Group B, which is composed by even smaller schools, each school with approximately 1,500 participants.
Each samba school has its own distinct colors (of its flag) and style of allegories. The color scheme is reflected in many parts of the parade of a school.
Samba Schools raise funds by selling tickets to their events and hall rehearsals, as well as by television broadcasts. They are a true mix of great deals and lots of fun.