What about visiting the headquarters of the samba schools before Carnival?
The samba schools headquarters are definitely worth a visit. You can understand their community trace and how hard it is to build from ground up every year a new Carnival presentation. Before setting your visit it’s useful to learn the different sort of events. The activity improves in the year’s second half.
1. Food and samba
Samba schools have a long tradition to associate music, party and typical Brazilian dishes. The most popular event is the “feijoadas” (the black beans and meat stew served in giant pans). The most famous one is at Portela, held every first Saturday of the month. The place gets fully crowded to taste the dish and watch the show of some famous artist invited. Similar events happen at Mangueira and Vila Isabel.
2. Commercial events
All the income generated by the events is driven to maintain the place and also help with the production of next year’s Carnival parade. Sometimes they are rented like any other concert hall or night club. It’s not unlikely to watch even shows that are not of samba. In these occasions there is no contact with the samba schools attractions.
3. Cultural events
When they are not rented for commercial events or Carnival-related preparations, these headquarters are like cultural centers. The most respected composers of the school may throw a party or any other sort of activity directed to the schools’ associates and supporters. Portela once again is the pioneer. Its most popular event is a cultural happening named Asas Abertas (open wings). Last Saturday there was one of these roda de samba events during which songs from two composers were played and the Carnival artistic director Rosa Magalhães met the writer of the book that inspired Portela’s theme for 2018.
4. “Diplomatic” Events
In order to attract more public and publicize its sambas, it’s common for samba schools to visit one another. In these events, the host school presents first with its percussion orchestra and the couple of flag bearer and her protector. After that it’s the turn of the invited party. And what’s diplomatic about it? Courtesy is much appreciated in the samba schools world. These events have a symbolic moment: at some point the presidents of both schools respectfully kiss the flag of the other and the flag bearers exchange pavillions and dance for some time. It’s almost a diplomatic cerimony full of pomp and circumstance and really beautiful to watch. The most famous event of the sort is Salgueiro Invites, happening almost all year long.
5. Choosing the hymn
Unless the school has decided to order to someone specific its hymn for the next Carnival, from July to October, once a week the headquarters held a leg of the contest that will choose the samba to be chanted at the Sambadrome. The candidates form groups and make presentations after which one is eliminated until there is only one left. Each school usually reserves an specific day of the week for the eliminatories. Portela on Fridays, Mangueira, Ilha, Tijuca and Salgueiro on Saturdays, Mocidade on Saturdays or Sundays and Imperatriz on Sundays or Mondays. The finals will be held from September till mid October.
Once the samba is chosen, from November until Carnival time the school helds a rehearsal show. These help the rooters of the school and its community to learn the lyrics of the song while the percussion orchestra presents its musical arrengements. There is also the flag bearer and her protector show and some of the most gifted samba dancers performing. These shows happen once a week on the same day the samba contests were held.
The samba school headquarters are usually safe places for a tourist to be and enjoy preparations for Carnival. Most of them can be reached by train or cab. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of them.