Rio on Parade 2015


One of the absolute highlights of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is the parade of the city’s top samba schools over the nights of Sunday and Monday (15 & 16 February).

In football terms these 12 samba schools are the Premiership of samba and all, along with their many thousands of fans and participants, want to win the championship and avoid regulation to a lesser division and at least a year in the samba wilderness.

And competition is tough. Last year, in 2014, Unidos da Tijuca’s parade that had as its theme the late, great Formula 1 star, Ayrton Senna, scored 299.4 out of a possible 300. Salgueiro was second with 299.3 and Portela third with 299.00. So at carnival even a fraction of a point counts. And that can be won and lost at any moment during the school’s parade.

If you want to get in the mood you should listen to this year’s sambas. The official CD can be found on the likes of iTunes and Amazon, and even Spotify. Search for "Sambas de Endredo 2015".

The running order and themes – which we will return to– are this year:


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Viradouro (21.00) – African roots and influences

Mangueira (22.05) – Women of Mangueira and Brazil

Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel (23.10) – If the world only had one day left, what would you do?

Unidos de Vila Isabel (00.15) – The music of Brazil

Salgueiro (01.20) – The tastes and customs of Minas Gerais

Grande Rio (02.25) – Cards

Monday, 16 February 2015

São Clemente (21.00) – Fernando Pamplona and Carnival

Portela (22.05) - 450 years of Rio surreal.

Beija-Flor (23.10) – Equatorial Guinea – The History of Africa

União da Ilha do Governador (00.15) – Pure beauty

Imperatriz Leopoldinense (01.20) – Axé – Racism – Mother Africa

Unidos da Tijuca (02.25) – Clovis Bornay and the Swiss connection



Every year each and every samba school needs to come up with a theme for its parade and samba. The story, if you like, it will try to tell as it parades.

There are very few restrictions on what the school can choose as the theme. It can be a person, a place, an event, or something more abstract. Last year the winning school, Unidos da Tijuca, based its presentation around the late great Ayrton Senna.

As each school chooses its theme individually it is quite possible, but unusual, that more than one school will choose the same theme. This did happen in 1994 when Imperatriz Leopoldinense, the eventual winner, and Império Serrano, who came last, both chose the unusual theme of the visit of the Tupinambás and Tabajaras Indians to the French court in the 16th century.

This year is was expected that many schools might have chosen as a theme the 450th anniversary of the founding of the city of Rio de Janeiro. As it turns out just one, Portela, has gone that route and with "450 years of Rio surreal".

Three schools have, however, decided to base their sambas around African topics, and the influences of Africa on Brazil. If that has helped or hindered the schools, we will only know when the results are announced next week.

Some themes will be easier for the "foreign" eye and ear to understand. Last year Ilha do Governador looked at children’s toys and this year has a theme of "pure beauty". Grande Rio is going to look at the part cards play in our lives, and that will be from playing cards to tarot cards, while the music of Brazil is the focus of Vila Isabel.

Mangueira, one of the city’s most traditional and popular schools, will celebrate the school’s own women as well as the women of Brazil, while Salgueiro, that came second in 2014 with a theme based on sustainability and preservation, will in 2015 be celebrating the food and customs of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

One samba school sure to entertain the crowds this year will be Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel whose samba asks the question: If the world only had one day left, what would you do?

Very few foreigners have ever been chosen as the theme for a samba school, but two Brits have and they include the botanical artist Margaret Mee, who lived for many years in Brazil, and another slightly more famous Rio resident, a certain Mr Ronnie Biggs. The Great Train Robber who was a big fan of carnival and samba, and not a bad dancer.

Chris Pickard @criticaldivide