Carlos Melia: Behind the Scenes Samba Experience

Author: , August 14th, 2015

Samba in Brazil - Carlos melia

If there is an experience you must have when in Rio de Janeiro, it is SAMBA, and what best than doing a behind-the-scenes tour to the world of the “samba schools” of Rio, which has remained mysterious and hidden. Let’s open the doors to reveal the secrets behind it. For this I came to the Samba City in the district called Little Africa, A beautiful, ancient and historical part of the port of Rio, where samba and the very first samba school was born. Hosted by one of the last year winning Escola de Samba Mirim Pimpolhos da Grande Rio ” Samba School “.

Grande Rio is non-profit organization and a Samba School for Grande Rio’s children, that uses carnaval’s arts and popular culture as a tool for education. 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 Duque de Caxias, a satellite town of Rio de Janeiro.

Samba - Carlos MeliaWere you aware that there are more than 80 samba schools in Rio with more than 100,000 dancers? Carnival is the most exciting event of the year where thousands of people travel worldwide just to experience this electrifying atmosphere. I wasn’t there for this particular time of the year, but I’ve got to experience the long yearly process of getting ready for their day view at the Sambodromo. This attraction, which takes place in Samba City, immerses visitors in the preparations that take place prior to the Carnival. You can actually experience some of the activities first hand. Opened in 2004, this facility provides 14 of the top samba schools adequate space to build their floats and prepare their song and samba routines., to give them an opportunity to create, learn and develop their skills by using carnival language. We were hosted warmly by the Grande Rio School, for a 2 hours Samba Experience, which was highly educational, interesting and fun.

Samba City is located in full contrast, next to “Providencia”, the first favela of Rio de Janeiro, and next to the new development of Porto Maravilha, which will be ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Even if you don’t go to Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival you can still experience this incredible celebration at Samba City. One of the highlights of Pimpolhos is to give back to their community, in this case to the shanty town of Providencia. Pimpolhos da Grande Rio’s mission is to promote education and social interaction through arts and culture, offering long-life learning opportunities for children, youth (ages five to eighteen) and their families.

Carlos Melia - SambaYour tour will begin at the warehouse where the floats and costumes are made. It is one of the 12 warehouses in Cidade do Samba the one that counts with the most technological machinery. The next stop on the tour is the sewing area where you can see some of the beautiful sparking costumes the samba dancers will be wearing during the Carnival. The costume designers and tailors will show you how the costumes are designed and sewn.

The warehouse, an old building from the early 20th century that is a large part of carnaval history. It is the place where Pimpolhos produces three allegoric floats, 2000 costumes and undertakes most of its social projects. Here each school produces more than 4000 costumes and 12 allegoric floats. Some of the costumes below, might look familiar to you, if you are a follower of the Carnivals.

Moving forward you will be invited to a room where you will see a very interesting video and brief lecture on the history behind Samba, its beginnings and how it became part of the Brazilian culture. 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. 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 Estacio, located on the hill above Praca Onze, considered the cradle of samba. They called themselves samba school because they met right next door to a local children’s school.

And once the educational part is done, was time for fun!!!!! A 25 minutes Samba show including dancing, percussions, and don’t be shy, because you will be part of it in every way. You will learn how to dance, and how to play the music. But this was just the beginning, because after our workshop we moved to the dressing rooms to try on our customs and be ready for our own moment on the Samba spotlight.

Such an amazing experience, which not only gave me a full insight on Samba, but also showed me some moves. Of course as we were ready to come to an end of the tour, we were escorted to the a bar area to close our tour over refreshing and well deserved Caipirinhas. For more information on this tour and how to book it, do not hesitate to contact me.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | Brazil Gay Travel Resources