What the heck does “Enredo” mean?

In Portuguese, the word eredo (pronounced en-hey-doo) means theme.  Every year for Carnaval in Rio, twelve Samba Schools1 (Escolas de Samba) compete for the grand prize.  Each year, every school creates an “enredo” or theme song for the competition.

The enredo begins with the song.  Samba Enredo is a musical form that refers to these annual theme songs.  The songs are performed by two to three singers called puxadores.  They are accompanied by one or more cavaquinhos2 and often a seven stringed guitar called a sete cordas.  The singing and stringed instruments are amplified to accompany the drum battery (bateria).  The tamborim section of the bateria (a large section of small drums usually near the front) plays special patterns called designs (desenhos).  The rhythms of the desenhos interact with the lyrics and, along with the “breaks” (stops, starts, and turnarounds) are important elements of the particular song, as well as the musical form Samba Enredo in general.

Together, these elements provide the musical component for each school’s presentation.  The song is played continuously while the entire school of three to five thousand performers parade through the Sambadramo3 or Samba-drome, which must be accomplished in only 80 minutes!4

The lyrics of the song tell a story and describe the theme.  All of the costumes (fantasias) and floats (caros de alegorica) illustrate the theme.  So if the enredo has a lyric describing how sugar cane was brought to Europe by the Arabs, you might get one or more sections (aulas) of dancers dressed in Arabic costumes.  If the song talks about the ocean, you might see a float in the shape of a boat.

In its efforts to emulate the Escolas of Rio, Samba Mundial creates an original enredo every year.  For many years our enredos consisted of fast samba which is the tradition of the form.  Starting in 2007, we introduced a break in the middle of the piece using a small portion of a popular song popular that is recognizable by our American audience.  The response was so great, that for the past five years we have included such a break and it is become a tradition for our enredos.

Use the links on the Enredos menu on the right to listen or download our songs!  Also included on each page are lyrics, translations, chords and desenhos documents.

1.  The championship division (Grupo Especial) was reduced from 14 to 12 school just a few years ago.  Back in the 1990 the group included 16 schools.  There are groups of schools below the championship level such as Grupo 1A and Grupo 1B .  The names for each level have also changed over the years.  In the 1990’s Grupo Expecial was Grupo 1A!

2.  The cavaquinho (pronounced cahv-a-keen-yo) or cavaco (kah-vah-koo) for short, is a small four stringed guitar about the size of a Ukelele.  In fact, the Portuguese brought the cavaco to both Brazil and Hawaii so the Uke evolved from the same instrument.  The cavaco used steal strings, whereas most Ukes have nylon strings, and they are tuned differently.

3.  The Sambadramo is a ¾ mile long linear stadium where the Carnaval competition takes place in Rio (other cities like São Paulo also have them).   On one side, there are bleachers along the entire length.  The other side has some bleachers and multi-leveled luxury boxes.  It was built in the 1970’s and moved the old traditional neighborhood based parades to a central location for the competition.

4.  Half of the schools perform on Sunday and the other half on Monday before Fat Tuesday.  In the 1970’s there was no time limit, and the competition/celebration could go until 11am the next day.  In the 1990’s a 90 minute time limit was established.  By the year 2001, 80 minutes was the limit.  Schools are docked points for going over (or too far under) the limit, so timing is an important part of the competition.  Imagine getting five thousand people to parade ¾ of a mile in 80 minutes synchronized to music!