Every samba school chooses a new theme (enredo) for the year and they hold a competition between groups of composers to write the best song (samba enredo, or just samba). Choosing the samba for the year is a months-long elimination process that ends in a final competition between the last 3 or 4 sambas in September and October. It is one of the most important days for the samba school aside from, of course, the carnaval parade.
One of my goals for returning to Rio this year was to make it in time for the samba final at Imperatriz Leopoldinense Samba school where I played last year. The day I landed was the semi final and the actual final was a few days later.
The Imperatriz quadra looked so cool!
Seems like winning is good. The outside of the quadra had a new beautiful paint job, and they had hung the new star for winning 2023. The inside was redone as well with a new floor, trophy room, paint job and a camera on a boom for livestreams and professional videos.
They also had hung these colorful pieces of fabric inside on the ceiling of the quadra that made it look magical. Someone told me later that it’s in the theme of the enredo to look like a tent.
The Imperatriz enredo this year is “COM A SORTE VIRADA PRA LUA SEGUNDO O TESTAMENTO DA CIGANA ESMERALDA” (Not sure why they gotta yell it) Perhaps I'll do a future post on the theme for this year.
There were many visitors there watching and hanging out. Mestre Gustavo from Salgueiro, a bunch of the directoria from Mocidade Alegre in São Paulo, and I recognized a bunch of the players, directors and mestres from other samba schools who had come.
We all got new shirts, had the kegs going for the bateria, the security and wait staff were all in suits and looking sharp, the quadra was all decorated beautifully! Show bateria played all the paradinhas and fancy stuff. Then the rest of us got to play for the sambas. It was basic samba levada with viradas. In the different official videos released on YouTube to preview the different sambas in competition there were paradinhas and phrases happening but for this it was just plain samba. I imagine that the idea is that there shouldn’t be favoritism for one samba over the others because one has some cool paradinha in it. But that is purely me guessing.
The supporters of samba 10 (or was it 7...?) had a bunch of flags balloons and stuff for their supporters and I was able to snag an Imperatriz flag. It’s not their normal flag with the band across it, it has one of those starburst things. I was all happy like a kid with a balloon, But my buddy told me not to wave it from the bateria stage. A little later someone else came up waving one and they sent her back down. I think this is also to not show favoritism. In my experience watching this process last year in other samba schools the bateria definitely has a favorite samba and shows their feelings by jumping around and singing. Then they act very bored and indifferent when the other sambas are played. Ha! But of course, every school is different.
There were fireworks and all kinds of confetti cannons going off inside the quadra. It was general fantastic mayhem from the samba supporters! (Video)
Every school is different on how they vote. From what my friend told me, at Imperatriz only 3 people vote, the Carnavalesco, the top leaders of the school, taking into account the reaction of the community and support of the sambas. When they announced the samba for this coming carnaval I didn’t quite understand what was going on. It wasn’t until the next day when my friend Renan (who is such a god-send, he explains everything to me!) explained to me about the conjunction of the 2 sambas and how this was the first time Imperatriz Leopoldinense had done this.
In 2005 Beija Flor combined 3 sambas and ended up winning that year. I didn’t realize that that was a thing but then again, I’m just learning and this is all pretty new to me.
But what a night and a privilege to see this process and celebration happening in real time!
Here is the official live stream video from the night!
The whole thing went until 4:30 or so in the morning. It was kind of chaotic when I was leaving the quadra. I was walking out and an elderly woman that I was greeting tripped and fell right in front of me. I tried to catch her but she went down so fast I couldn’t soften her fall very much. She was out of it for a couple of minutes as I tried to help her roll over and put her glasses back on etc. Three men came over and helped me stand her up. She seemed OK after that and talking. Then, to increase the chaos, it started thundering and raining (big ole fat rain) and the security wouldn’t let me back in the quadra. I ended up getting an Uber back to my place and was in bed as the sun was coming up at 6AM. What a night!
I really wish I had caught that elderly woman who fell, but it didn’t seem like she broke anything or wasn’t too banged up.