By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Now that 2014 is officially here, the focus in Rio turns to preparations for the biggest party of the year, Carnival. Samba schools across the city are hard at work crafting costumes and floats and practicing their parades for the famed competition in Rio’s Sambódromo and this year the samba school Império da Tijuca will kick off the main competition in the Grupo Especial (Special Group) on Sunday, March 2nd.
The 2013 Grupo de Acesso (Access Group) winners re-enter the Special Group for the first time since 1996 and will celebrate the drums and rhythms of Africa during the competition with their enredo (theme) “Batuk.”
“It’s the beginning of [drumming as a form of expression] in Africa, its influence on African culture, its influence on Brazil, from religions to the new rhythms. That’s what the theme is,” carnavalesco Júnior Pernambucano told G1 news, adding, “The ‘batuque’ [drumming] is this, the development of a sound, a rhythm.”
Founded in 1940, Império da Tijuca is one of Rio’s oldest samba schools. The first ever to use “império” (empire) in their name, the school’s flag features their colors of green and white surrounding a golden crown representing nobility and tradition.
Formed in Morro da Formiga in Tijuca in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone), the school has remained mostly in the lower competitive groups throughout their long history. They regained entry to the Special Group last year through their performance of the Access Group championship winning theme, “Negra, pérola mulher” (Black , pearl woman).
For the ninth consecutive year, the school will again be lead by their Rainha de Bateria (Queen of the Drums) Laynara Teles. Daughter of the school’s President, Antônio Carlos Teles, the 24-year-old Laynara also serves as treasurer for the school and helps to distribute the Carnival costumers, among other community activities.
“Everything goes together perfectly, since I work at the [samba] school during the day and am the queen at night,” Teles recently told G1, adding, “I occasionally even attempt to play the drums. Now, I’m learning to play the tambourine. For me, all this work is not a sacrifice. I live Carnival all the time.”
Teles also recently participated in the school’s first Ensaio Show (test show) of the year on Sunday, January 5th. Open to the public, the event was held in the school’s quadra (practice hall), in the Rio neighborhood of Tijuca. Members of the school’s bateria (percussion section) were also in attendance as were their mestre-sala and porta-bandeira (flag-bearing couple), among others.
In regards to the costumes and theme for the school this year Laynara Teles said; “I’ve seen the design of the costumes and know they are being made, but still do not know what they are. I know that the percussion section will represent a congada – folk festival that unites African and Iberian traditions – then I come representing a character of this festival.”
Promising to incorporate many additional African inspired elements in their parade, Império da Tijuca’s summary of their theme for this year reads in part; “To touch, to hit, to vibrate; is Batuk. It is reminiscent of our African ancestors and the purity of the songs of life, where everything is rhythm.”
As Carnival approaches the school will hold more Ensaio Shows and members of the public can attend and watch as their parade comes together before they open the main competition on March 2nd. For more information about the Ensaio Shows, see the school’s website here.
Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Educativa (G.R.E.S.E.) Império da Tijuca
Quadra de Ensaios (Practice Hall)
Rua Medeiros Pássaro, 84 – Tijuca
Telephone: +55 (21) 2570-0364