Samba is a unique combination of energetic dance with rhythmic music. Though closely associated with the carnivals of Brazil, it has garnered influences from various cultures such as the German polka, Cuban habanera as well as the Congolese and Angolan circle dances.
But ever since the dance reached Brazil in its primitive form a few centuries back, many valuable additions have been made that have transformed the dance into modern Samba, which is now an icon of Brazil’s identity. Samba is as lively and rhythmic as it can be. Dance and music enthusiasts believe that Samba performances can excite any dance enthusiast, irrespective of the genre to which they belong. For example, Brazil’s most professional poker player at the moment, André Akkari, expressed his passion for combining samba with his favorite activity, tweeting last month, “Listening to beautiful samba and playing beautiful poker. This is life!!!”
Though Samba can be experienced throughout Brazil with slight variations and regional influences, Samba has a special connection to Rio de Janeiro, especially to the Cidade do Samba. Cidade do Samba, due to its invaluable contributions to the Samba performances, is widely known as the City of Samba or the Samba City. This city, located in the port area of Rio de Janeiro, was opened in 2004 as a planned facility to provide adequate space and infrastructure to the locals to build their floats and perform any other Samba-related activity. Samba City has more than enough to entertain and engage a tourist.
Anybody arriving in the City of Samba is greeted and welcomed with a caipirinha cocktail and samba band. The drink and the music will thrill and energise any tourist. A guide there will explain the instruments used, including drums, as well as how these instruments are made. To give tourists a better and more comprehensive understanding, the guide will also explain how each and every instrument is important to the band.
After providing this basic information to all visitors, the City of Samba provides every interested person the special opportunity to learn how to play some or all of these instruments. Once the lesson is complete, enthusiasts can join the band and enjoy playing samba music with them. No tourist can ever forget this unique feeling.
The next thing for tourists to visit in Samba City is the sewing area. This will give tourists the opportunity to feel the ever-colourful costumes that the samba dancers wear during the carnival. Not only can the tourists see them, but they can also get to know how the costumes are designed and sewn from costume designers and tailors. Apart from this, while tourists move along a 26-foot high walkway over the floats, they will be given a presentation on how these awe-inspiring floats are made. Also, tourists can have a look at the exhibition of costumes and floats from previous parades at one of the barracões.
By late afternoon, the real samba fun starts when the Samba dancers appear. Tourists can join them and have a brief lesson if they wish to. This fun reaches its peak in the evening show, which displays a spectacular array of what goes on at Carnival. And in order to keep these memories alive, tourists can buy souvenirs from stands that are run by students. These items are usually hand made by craftspeople from the surrounding communities.
Overall, City of Samba is perhaps the only place where a tourist can ‘feel’ Samba. Samba City offers tourists the charm and excitement of carnival, along with the opportunity to understand the ‘backstage’ details as well. Hence, if you are a samba enthusiast, the City of Samba shouldn’t be left off your tour plan. But remember, even though the city can be visited throughout the year (except on Tuesdays, which are reserved for maintenance), the ideal time to ‘feel’ the Samba performances is from November until Carnival.