Why Carnival?

Carnival is laughter, carnival is joy, carnival is community.

The word Carnival comes from the Latin ‘carne vale’ meaning ‘farewell to the flesh’.

This is a moment where the world turns topsy turvy, where kings dress in paupers’ clothes and paupers wear crowns. Where stories are told through imaginative costumes and characters are taken on journeys through song (samba de enredo). Where a corner of society, if only for a moment, infiltrates another, so that people who may not normally socialise together develop friendships and form bonds during this one moment in time that, once over, remains locked in the memory of our bodies and psyche.

We wait the whole year to release our stresses, put our worries to one side and focus on enjoying and playing together, dancing together, singing together, being together. Since Carnival happens once a year you can imagine the build-up is immense, the release is overwhelming and the joy far reaching into the rest of our daily lives throughout the year.

This is why we come together to take part in Carnival.
This is why we welcome you to join us!

Components of Carnival



Definition of Carnavalesco according to the World Samba Organization:

“The artistic director and designer of the carnival samba parade. This person usually designs the costumes, floats, and sequence of groups in the carnival parade.”


Enredo (Theme)
Enredo is the theme developed by the Carnavalesco through design.


Samba de Enredo (Theme Song)
Samba-enredo is a sub-genre of Samba in which songs are performed by a samba school for the festivities of Carnival. The samba enredo is the verbal counterpart of the story (enredo) told through design.



London School of Samba Bateria at Notting Hill Carnival 1997. Photo: Adrian Bond

Definition of Bateria according to the World Samba Organisation:
“The percussion group that plays samba for a samba school”.

Registering for this ala is through application to and invitation by the LSS Bateria Team.


Intérprete – Puxador(Lead Singer)

Xavier Osmir
Photo: Noriega Photographics

A puxador, the singer within a samba school. The word Puxador derives from the verb ‘puxar’ in Portugeuse, which means ‘to pull’. The singers were named this because they pull the samba school along with their interpretation of the theme song and the energy that they put into such intepretation.
Puxadores are chosen for their strong voices, forceful delivery of melodies, and stamina that enables them to sing non-stop for eighty minutes during the official carnival parade. There is often a main singer who is supported by other singers, who in addition to singing the song, shout words of encouragement to the rest of the samba school.


Mestre Sala and Porta Bandeira(Master of Ceremonies and Flag Bearer)

Photo: Matthew Johns

Definition of Porta-Bandeira and Mestre-Sala according to the World Samba Organisation:

  • The Porta-Bandeira is “The ‘flag bearer’ of the samba school who carries the school flag wearing a very elaborate and ornate hooped dress. This is traditionally a woman.”
  • The Mestre-Sala is the ‘Ballroom Master’ who accompanies the Porta-Bandeira and also wears a very elaborate costume. This is traditionally a man.”

Together the Porta-Bandeira and Mestre-Sala present a Samba school’s.  They dance graciously and elegantly, like a duet in a ballet and their dance has origins in the minuet.
At the LSS applicants are voted for by our members every three 3 years.


Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the drumming group)

Karla-Jayne Thomas
Rainha da Bateria 2011 – 2012
Photo: Eduardo Noriega

Definition of Rainha da Bateria according to the World Samba Organization:
“A person who dances samba very well, who accompanies the percussion of the ‘bateria’ unit of Samba School. This person is usually a woman and is also chosen for their physical beauty.”

The Queen is a highlight, chosen to parade in front of the bateria with their exceptional samba no pé skills. To become the London School of Samba Rainha, applicants are invited to compete in a competition held in the run up to carnival, usually in July.


The function of the Queen is to animate the bateria and offer the Mestre support in firing up the bateria and keeping rhythm. Today in Brazil, queens are expected to be very beautiful and there is less emphasis is placed on dancing abilities.


We hold a competition in the summmer towards our carnival pending funding.
If you would like to enter please email [email protected]
Click here for more information on our Rainha da Bateria competition.


Madrinha (Godmother)

Madrinha – Di Foden

As the role suggests, this position is usually held by a long standing member of the school and represents their lengthy contribution. The LSS Madrinha is voted for by members every 3 years.


Musa (Muse)

A muse is someone who inspires all elements of a carnival procession and is free to roam through the different parts of the procession without necessarily having a fixed position. The muse is someone who has strong ties to all disciplines within the samba school.

At LSS the Musa is voted for by members every 3 years.


Alas (Sections)
Definition of an Ala according to the World Samba Organization:
“An Ala is a group of the same costume that forms a block in the carnival parade” It builds a tapestry of visual storytelling and comes together across the parade as a visual interpretation of the enredo.


Comissão de Frente


A compulsory element, the Comissão de Frente is the first ala (section) of the procession which welcomes the public and judges.  The group is normally made up of 10 – 15 people, although this is more likely to be between 6-8 for the LSS. This section encapsulates the enredo (theme) of the school through costume and choreography, and is often highly choreographed and theatrical.  The emphasis with this group is on co-ordination and presenting the story, rather than an individual ability to dance.
Registering for this ala is through application to and invitation by the LSS Dance Team via the carnival registration email.




The name Baiana is taken from state of Bahia from where samba has diffused through the migration of people south, in particular women, referred to as the aunties of a community ‘tias baianas’ (Bahian aunts).

Considered one of the most important and respected sections, the Baiana ala is ideally composed of older women who have always taken part in the school. This ala was introduced in the 1930’s to pay homage to the ‘aunts’ of samba that housed sambistas when samba was marginalized and this practice co-formed the first samba groups in Rio at the beginning of the 20th Century. This is an open access ala, anyone can register.



Photo: Noriega Photographics

Definition of Passista according to the World Samba Organization:
The “Passista” some say comes from the root word “Passear” or to walk or stroll and literally means “one who walks.”
A solo dancer, chosen to for their excellent skill in dancing samba no pé  to the samba beat of the bateria, whether to one instrument, or the full bateria. The ala (section) of passistas in parade dance behind of the bateria and they are accompanied by talented male passistas who court the female passistas. Passistas are also noted for the physical beauty and bikini costumes. Registering for this ala is through application to and invitation by the  LSS Dance Team via the carnival registration email.


Dance Ala

Participants need to be able to dance and interpret the song through movement and use of their the costume. LSS traditionally calls this ala the Female ala as a representation and praise of femininity and this ala has been supported by females of all ages as well as cross dressers and transgender people of all ages and backgrounds.

This is an open access ala and anyone can register. Preparations for this ala are held in the run up to carnival at Waterloo Action Centre workshops.


Ala Afro

The ala Afro may resemble alas of some Brazilian Samba School parades as part of themes that reference and pay tribute to the Afro-Brazilian diaspora, history or religion. It is not in itself a customary ala in a samba school unless intrinsically related to a specific theme. As a UK based school, the LSS has developed this specific ala to represent this often misrepresented compotent of the Brazilian population.
This is an open access ala, anyone can register. Preparations for this ala are held in the run up to carnival at Waterloo Action Centre workshops.


Ala Indio


The Índio ala has appeared in some Brazilian Samba School parades as part of themes that reference and pay tribute to the native indigenous tribes of Brazil. It is not in itself a customary ala in a samba school unless intrinsically related to a specific theme. As a UK based school, the LSS has developed this specific ala over time through the wish to represent this often forgotten corner of the Brazilian cultural diaspora.

This is an open access ala, anyone can register, although participants from abroad are particularly encouraged as workshop provision for this ala are made on Notting Hill Carnival weekend.


Destaques (Highlights)

Mariana Whitehouse Notting Hill 2009

Destaques are large scale highlights of the enredo, often the central part of a float in Rio, they serve to create focal points of the procession and bring out key elements of the enredo. At the LSS, highlights may be on a float but they may also be on the ground serving to create focal points between other alas.

Registering for this ala is through application to and invitation by the  LSS Dance Team via the carnival registration email.


Velha Guarda (The old guards)

Ala Velha Guarda at the Notting Hill Carnival 2009. Photo: Leila Peerun

This  group usually, but not always, consists of older members of the samba school who have had many years of involvement with the school through any discipline: music, dance, costume or management. Traditionally the Velha Guarda are more often the founders of a school, who no longer participate in the running of the school, but who make up an important part in the recognition of their past endeavours. It is considered an honour to parade in this section and the Velha Guarda members traditionally dress in more formal attire, often in the colours of the schools flag and Panamá style hats, an echo to 1920’s dress when samba historically entered popular culture in Brazil.
Registering for the ala is through application the Bateria Directors for the attention of Mags.


Alegoria and Adereços (Floats and Accessories)

Our magic carpet Notting Hill Carnival 2011. Photo: Matthew Johns

The first float of a procession is called the abre-alas, they are pushed by people and it is prohibited to use animals move them. Motorised floats are not usually permitted, however the LSS are kinder on the backs of its volunteers! Floats have to comply with various height and width restrictions on a route, but are focal points dressed from top to bottom and represent elements of the enredo. Dancers who appear on the float and who’s costumes are designed as part of the float’s aesthetic are called destaques (see above) and are highly considered positions.


Fantasia (costumes)


The costumes of a samba school serve to explain or illustrate the story in the lyrics of the samba enredo. They should relate to the theme and be in harmony across the school. Processions are divided into sections – alas – and each ala has its own theme and costume related to the overall theme. Costumes are usually judged according to creativity, how the depict their role in the enredo, use of colour and materials including finer details of a costume which are refered to as ‘acabamento’.

A Samba schools most important costumes are those of the Mestre Sala and Porta Bandeira, responsible for upholding the name of the school, and  as well as the Comissão de Frente, the opening ala, whose responsibility it is to be the first impression a viewer sees of the approaching school.


Harmonia and Evolução
Harmonia denotes the way in which participants parade, and relates to all sections fitting together harmoniously and rhythmically. A Samba school is expected to sing their theme song in synchronisity, with the principle voice of the parade – the puxador, leading. Performing the samba enredo as a collective, the unification of all voices in effect becomes one voice. Singing out of time and in conflict with the bateria would mean a loss of points.Evolução is the way in which dance is presented throughout the whole parade. The entire procession should move in the same cadence of the bateria, which means no stopping and starting.  Gaps must be maintained seamlessly, without widening and causing a need for alas to catch up. In Rio, a procession must finish between 1hr 10mins and 1hour 20mins or else risk losing points. In São Paulo the total procession time is 1hr and 5mins.


The Barracão is the samba school’s headquarters for the making and construction of costumes and other elements of the Carnival procession. This word in Portuguese means ‘very big shed’ or ‘warehouse’ and has a connotation with working space. In this space the members of the community interact and pull their efforts together for the making of the Carnival Parade. The LSS has two different barracões: one for costume making and float construction in Bermondsey and one set up over the carnival weekend in Notting Hill.