Paraiso School of Samba masthead

webpage updated: Mon 24 Jun 2024

Here is a glossary of words and terms used in the world of samba. We have often included reference to the Rio Carnival Sambadrome parades.

If you can't find what you are looking for, please contact us and we'll consider adding it.


A group within a Samba School. Some of these are 'compulsory' in a Rio carnival parade. All the members of an Ala wear the same costume, giving the blocks of colour which characterise a samba school parade.

Some alas are traditional or compulsory (ala Baiana, ala Mirim, ala Xingu/Indios).

Others are created within particular Samba Schools and given a name which usually relates to the person who started it or relates to a particular event. These carry on from year to year with the same name.

Carro alegorico, Alegoria


In the Rio Carnival these are allegories following the theme of the parade. There is a minimum and maximum number of floats (eg, Grupo Especial parades must have between 5 and 8 floats).

They are huge - up to 10 m wide. The length is not regulated - 40 m or so is probably not unusual in the special group. They can be 10 m or more high (the rules say they cannot be higher than the television bridge across the parade road, but we have seen higher floats which are hydraulically lowered as they pass under the bridge).

A number of separate floats can be linked together to form one and this is often done by schools in the Grupo Especial (special group).

Carro Abre Alas

The Abre Alas float is the very first float. [car-ho abree alas].


This is one of the most important Alas in a Samba School and is compulsory in Rio carnival. The Baianas always wear large hooped skirts and are predominantly older ladies. In Rio, they would have been with the Samba School for many years. [ba-eeyana]


The space or building where a samba school builds its floats. [bar-haka-ow].


The percussion band of a Samba School. It plays pure samba and does not have any wind instruments. [batareeya]

In the UK, the term is sometimes mistakenly used to describe almost any type of percussion band playing Brazilian music. But if you are a samba percussion band which is not part of a samba school, then you are not a bateria, you are a 'Banda' or 'Grupo'.


Drumming [batookada].


In Rio and Sao Paulo, this is a fledgling Samba School - smaller than a Samba School and often without elements such as the Comissão de Frente.


The festivity which, in Brazil, takes place during the 4 days ending on Shrove Tuesday. It is the last chance for Catholics to have some fun before the abstinence of Lent - hence the name which originates from 'without meat'. In many countries this festival is called Mardi Gras.


The designer with overall artistic control of the carnival including the costumes, the floats and the overall appearance of the carnival parade.


A small acoustic guitar very similar to a Ukulele. [cavakeynyo]

Comissão de Frente

This is the front line group leading the carnival parade - the face and smile of the Samba School. This group acts out a choreographed movement or a small piece of theatre. [komiss-a-oo de frenchi].


The space in which a samba school assembles prior to a carnival parade. [konsentrassaa-ow].


Parade [dayshfeeli].


They wear the Highlight costumes. In Rio, the Destaques often pay serious money to wear the most elaborate and spectacular costumes and to be in a prominent place in the parade. [daystarkis].


A Director is someone with an area of responsibility in a Samba School. This could be administrator or, for example, a leader of the Bateria.

Escola de Samba (Samba School)

A Samba School in the Brazilian tradition is a community group focussed on samba culture - dance, percussion, music - and embodied in an annual Carnival. The Samba School is a family which hands this samba culture down through the generations - hence the essential groups of Mirim (children) and Baianas (ladies), and the Velha Guarda (veterans).

In Brazil, Samba Schools exist only in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and have well defined structure and traditions. Whilst samba is simply not well known enough outside Brazil for organisations to be as large, these are the characteristics which would make an organisation recognisable as a Samba School to a Brazilian:

The School must take part in a carnival once a year which includes:

An Ala Baiana;

A Bateria;

A Samba Enredo (samba theme song) which is specially composed each year for the carnival;

An Ala Mirim;

A Porta Bandeira and Mestre Sala;

A Comissão de Frente.


Carnival costume. [fantazeeya]


Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba (Samba School Recreational Club). This title indicates a traditional samba school. The official title of Paraiso School of Samba is "GRES Paraiso".

ala Indios

Alternatively called the Ala Xingu, this is one of the Alas of our samba school and represents the native indians of Brazil.


Singer of the samba enredo.

Madrinha de Bateria

Someone invited to be a highlight attached to the Bateria.

Madrinha da Escola

The name given to a samba school or organisation that provided or provides help and support to a developing samba school or bloco. Madrinha = "Godmother". Mangueira and Estacio de Sa are Paraiso's godmothers.

Mestre de Bateria

Mestre de Bateria is a title of honour given to a recognised expert who must know how to play all the instruments very well. It means Master.

It is often thought, in the UK and some other countries outside Brazil, that the Mestre de Bateria is the title of the main leader of the bateria, but this is not the Brazilian way. The leaders of Baterias outside of Brazil should almost always be called Directors and the main leader should be called the First Director of the Bateria.

Although most samba percussion bands in the UK call their leaders 'mestres', Paraiso follows the Brazilian tradition and accords that title only to true Mestres. [mestray de batareeya].

Mestre Sala

The Mestre Sala partners the Porta Bandeira and dances with a special style. He rarely leaves the side of the Porta Bandeira. [mestray sala].

ala Mirim

The children's group. A samba school always has a children's group who are the future of the school. [mirreen].


Literally 'Party', pagode refers to samba as played for dance by bands or groups usually for parties, dances, clubs, radio play etc. [pagojee].


One of the fast and furious dancers of samba in a Samba School.

Porta Bandeira

The Porta Bandeira (Flag Bearer) is the most important representative of the School in parades. The flag is always treated with great reverence. It is traditional for the other samba schools to attend the foundation celebrations of a new samba school with their flag and Porta Bandeira. [porta bandayeera].


A School of Samba always has a President who takes responsibility for the activities of the School.


The main singer(s) of the samba enredo. The title puxador ('puller') was given because the main task was to pull everyone along in singing the song. However, the title Intérprete is now often used. [pooshador(ez)].

Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the Bateria)

The Queen of the Bateria is a Highlight in a prominent position with the Bateria. The title of Queen of the Bateria is traditionally awarded after a competition, but sometimes is simply awarded. [hyeenya da batareeya].


A type of music and dance developed from the musical traditions of African slaves in Brazil and characterised by the emphasis of the second beat in the bar. From its roots in Bahia, samba was developed in Rio in the 1900s.

In Brazil, 'Samba' refers to the form played by the baterias of the samba schools in Rio and São Paulo, and this is the samba played by Paraiso School of Samba.

There is a rich variety of related rhythms some of them developing in parallel with samba and some of them being derivatives or developments. These are mainly played in other parts of Brazil by groups who are called 'Bandas' and 'Grupos'.

Paraiso School of Samba plays samba as it is played in Rio - our bateria plays with and learns directly from our members who have played since childhood in the most highly regarded baterias of Rio.

Samba enredo

The samba theme song. A new song is composed for the carnival each year. [samba enhairdoe].

Samba no Pê

"Samba with feet" = samba dancing (as exemplified by the passistas) [samba no pay].


see instruments of the Bateria [tamboreen].

Velha Guarda

The veterans of the school of samba - comprising ex-presidents, ex-mestres, ex-baianas and so on. They are given great respect and influence and it is said that if you do not know who the Velha Guarda are, then you do not know the School. In the carnival parade, the Velha Guards do not usually wear costume but wear white suits etc.

The respect with which they are held was famously demonstrated in 2005. Portela realised that they would not be able to get past the finishing line within the permitted time unless they cut off the end of their parade which included the Velha Guarda. The danger of loosing points with possible relegation out of the special group led the school's president to truncate the parade so that the Velha Guarda did not parade. This caused great outbursts of emotion from the crowd.
[velya gooarda].

ala Xingu

Alternatively called the Ala Indios, this is one of the Alas of our samba school and represents the native indians of Brazil.


Arts Council England logo

Paraiso School of Samba is a Registered Charity number 1113593 and a Company Limited by Guarantee and registered in England and Wales number 5676918.
Paraiso Samba Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Paraiso School of Samba and is registered in England and Wales number 5732752.
Paraiso is a registered trade mark of Paraiso School of Samba.

website designed & hosted by paraisoIT