Our guide to samba

Our guide to samba

First published date February 26 2014 Amended date February 28 2014

Do you love the contagious noise and energy of the Brazilian samba? Have a yearning to move your feet to the rhythm of the beat? Well if you tick those boxes then why not have a look at some of the samba courses on offer? Samba is an excellent way to fulfil your dancing desires and also a great way to get fit and keep in shape because of high energy and intensity involved in it. So whether you find yourself at the Rio Carnival in Brazil or the Notting Hill Carnival in London, get moving to a bit of samba!


Why Samba?

Samba can teach you a lot, ranging from rhythm, movement and percussion to keeping fit, and is a great way to spend an evening or weekend so you can temporarily forget the pressures and stresses of the real world. It gives you an excellent full body work out and it’s one you can do while having a lot of fun, rather than spending mile upon mile running on a treadmill while staring at a wall. People have found that they lose weight and tone muscles very quickly because your body works extra hard when working multiple muscles groups in unison, which is what happens in samba! Your legs and hips in particular get a good going over. Samba is both a great aerobic and anaerobic work out so it’s an excellent to get fit, if that’s what you’re after.


I’ve never taken a dance lessons or a course before...

Not to worry, most samba courses are designed for beginners or people looking for a bit of fun! So it doesn’t really matter if you have two left feet or don’t know your samba from your tango, remember that it’s just fun! As long as you’re as enthusiastic as samba is energetic then you will be just fine.


What will a course involve?

Courses vary from beginner samba classes, focusing on the dancing, where as others might focus on percussion and drum beats so you can really be specific with what you choice of course. Naturally, courses are really hands on and practical, and in the case of percussion courses, drums and other instruments are also provided for you. If you are a total beginner, courses may tend to start off at a slower pace so that you have a chance to get to grips with the rhythm and feet movement or drumming techniques if you’re doing percussion.  


Samba and carnival facts

-          The samba origins date back between the late 19th and early 20th centuries when former African slaves from Bahia migrated to Rio de Janeiro and brought the dance with them and it was in where Rio where it gained huge popularity incorporating other genres of music.

-          Carnival time in Brazil starts on the Friday and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, signalling the start of the Lent period and Easter. It is attended by millions upon millions.


-          The start of the carnival period is signalled by the handing over of giant gold and silver keys from the Mayor of Rio to King Momo (Fat King).


-          The Rio Carnival alone was attended by an estimated 4.9 million people in 2012.


-          Purpose-built Sambadromes are packed out during carnival time where the many samba schools in Brazil exhibit their costumes, props, dancing and music skills and compete against each other in a huge, vibrant parade!


-          Some of the most prestigious samba schools spend in excess of $3 million on all their preparations including outfits and floats for the parades.


A Londoner in Rio...

John Campbell got into Samba through playing the drums at school, where his drumming teacher, who also taught Samba in the evenings for adults, encouraged John to join up when he was old enough. Since then, John has performed at the Notting Hill Carnival and even the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony. Those amazing experiences are set to continue for John as he prepares to be drumming at the Rio de Janeiro Carnival 2014! He tells us about his love of samba...

‘I'm a member of a samba school in London called Paraiso School of Samba. It’s a great way of meeting new people and I’ve had the chance to be a part of great events like the Olympic ceremony and Notting Hill Carnival. Given the unique environment with live drumming and the 'Brazilian spirit', the dance class has to be one of the most fun exercises and dance classes in London. I'm currently in Rio de Janeiro preparing to parade in the Rio Carnival, this is all through people that I've met at Paraiso. It’s great; I'm learning a new language, learning about a foreign culture and will parade in the world’s largest party at carnival!’