3 Samba Schools to Watch at Rio Carnival

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The Samba Schools in Rio de Janeiro are clubs which represent a particular neighbourhood of the city in the Samba Parade during Rio Carnival. At this time of year, they become the main focus in Rio and, in the lead-up to the event, they hold samba nights, which are referred to as ‘rehearsals’. These nights are open to anyone for a small entrance fee and are a great insight into the preparations for the most important event of the year.

The Top 3 Samba Schools in Rio de Janeiro

Estácio de Sá: Rio’s most traditional samba school

Estácio de Sá is one of the oldest and most traditional samba schools in Rio de Janeiro and its drums section is considered to be the best in the history of Rio Carnival. It was founded in 1955 and is the result of a merger between three samba schools in the Estácio neighbourhood: Paraíso das Morenas, Recreio de São Carlos and Cada Ano Sai Melhor. In 1992, Estácio de Sá reached its peak at Rio Carnival when it won the title of “Pauliceia desvairada – 70 anos de Modernism”, portraying Brazil’s seventy-year modernist movement. Today, Estácio de Sá has approximately 4,000 members and is widely recognised for its liveliness and originality.

Location: Av. Salvador de Sá 206-208, Bairro do Estácio.

A rehearsal at the samba school "Estacio de Sa", which demonstrates the native Brazilian's ability to move their feet at lightening speed.

A rehearsal at the samba school “Estacio de Sa” / Source

Beija Flor: creative, competitive and controversial

This samba school took its name from a nearby ranch named Beija-Flor, meaning hummingbird, which is also the school’s official symbol. Beija Flor was founded in 1948 and revolutionised in 1974, when Joãosinho Trinta took on the position of carnavalesco (carnival designer). Since then, the school has set a series of milestones in samba history and is nowadays ranked the highest among all samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. It has achieved this reputation by being innovative, competitive and controversial, choosing delicate parade themes such as religion. It is also the only school to have a whole team of carnival designers, as opposed to just one, who are renowned for their creative brilliance and use of bold, vibrant colours.

Location: Pracinha Wallace Paes Leme 1025, Nilopolis.

Beija Flor

Beija Flor is renowned for its originality and creativity / Source

Bateria do Salgueiro: a favourite amongst the famous

Bateria do Salgueiro is an elitist school which attracts many celebrities, such as musician Jorge Ben Jor and commended footballer Romário amongst others. In contrast to its current middle-class fan club, this samba school was actually one of the first to showcase the talents of Afro-Brazilians and it became very famous for being the most ‘fun’ school in the Grupo Especial. Established in the 1950’s, Salgueiro currently has one of the largest fan bases in Brazil, partly due to its talented dancers and also because its themes are both interesting and inspiring, causing it to stand out from other samba schools in Rio de Janeiro.

Location: Rua Silva Teles 104, Tijuca, Andaraí. This is one of the safest locations of all the samba schools, thereby contributing towards Salgueiro’s popularity and attendance levels.

Bateria do Salgueiro

Bateria do Salgueiro stands out for its inspiring compositions / Source

Get in the mood for Rio Carnival by attending one of these fantastic samba schools’ rehearsals for the Samba Parade, undoubtedly the best way to experience real samba and learn all about this famous Brazilian dance.

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By Camilla Day