Brazilian Carnival Drums Section Queens Explained

On this article we will explain everything you ever wanted to know about Goddesses of the Brazilian Carnival, called Drum Section Queens, or “Rainha de Bateria” in Portuguese. Carnival Drum Queens, Queen of the Drums, Drummers´ Muse, Percussions Muse, Drum Section Queen, or even Percussion Queen, are some names given by translators to the Brazilian Carnaval expression of “Rainha de Bateria”. We decided to use the term “Carnaval Drum Queen” since it best represents, in our opinion, the real meaning of the Brazilian term. Carnaval Drum Queens are essentially muses that parade in a highlighted fashion, in front of every Drum Section within a samba-school in Brazil´s Carnaval. Let´s look how all of this started.

Some historians say the origin of this beauty figure, goes back to the fifties and sixties, but only after the mid-eighties, with model Monique Evans at Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba ‘school that the post achieved the status it has today. These Goddesses of Carnaval must possess specific attributes to become an authentic Drum Queen. Not all Carnaval muses are Drum Queens. The “Rainhas de Bateria” are at the top of the social status chain (for women) within Brazil´s Carnival and are responsible for “opening and welcoming” the percussionists of the drums section in every major samba school in Brazil. The post is extremely sought after and sparks lively competition within possible candidates. The “Rainhas de Bateria” are generally young ( between 18-50 ), and very physical. This is so since she needs to have all the necessary energy to samba dance during a series of backstage events such as samba rehearsals, technical parades, shows, promotional video-clips and the samba parties.

Apart from being young and marvelous, the “Rainhas de Bateria” also have to be very photogenic, as to attract as much attention as possible by specialized media and general public. Carnival Drum Queens are photographed all year long, and this media interest and exposure adds popularity and glamor to the final showing of the samba school during the official parade. Within all attributes, charisma is probably the most important one. A Carnival Drum Queen in Brazil should be extremely charismatic, being able to arouse empathy in the samba school audience, samba school community, media, and general public. These “Rainhas de Bateria” should be very popular, media friendly and energetic, so that overall opinion and especially drummers and percussionists maintain their enthusiasm about their performance and pride over that samba school. Ideally, the Drum Queens also need to be accomplished dancers. Because of this high-profile, Drum Queens are a vital element and asset within a samba-school to promote its community all year long, and not only during the festivity season. Also in terms of the artistic style, the Drum Queen adds grace and lightness to that sector of the parade which is mainly composed of men, which is the Drums Section.

Now that we know the main attributes a Drum Section Queen should possess, let’s explain how they are chosen. Samba-Schools in Brazil have a power structure similar to corporations in America, having a president, directors, support staff, etc. Drum Queens then are basically chosen by samba school´s president and board of directors. At the end of each carnival they review the beauty ´s overall performance. If the Drum Queen represented the samba-school at the official parade (and parallel events) with energy, empathy, and shine, she may be then qualified to repeat the parade next year. If she failed, she must then be replaced. But all of this is very sensitive and subjective. Many of them have informal agreements with Samba-school, while other has defined contracts.

The Carnival Drum Queen post confers high visibility on its bearers and lack of commitment can be a signal for dismissal. Since there are only 12 spots for this post on each carnival in Rio de Janeiro, considering samba schools from the major league, the dispute for this profile can be exhausting. Important to note also each samba school parades with only one “Rainha de Bateria” per parade, since there is only one Drums Section per each school/parade.

People connected to the samba-schools, like sponsors and partners, may often try to influence the president and the board to push for a specific muse, but the final decision is made by the samba-school president. Although, the Drum Queen is not paid by the school, there is a lot of interest in the position, on the muses’ point of view too. Drum Queens are generally pulled from the entertainment world, and most of the times they are Brazilian TV actresses, famous dancers, pop singers, celebrities, or even beauty pageantry muses. But there is no rule. As an example, in 2009 we saw model Natália Guimarães, former Miss Brazil 2007 become the carnival Drum Queen for Vila Isabel Samba School in Rio de Janeiro. Prior to that involvement, she had never paraded in a major samba school. Every time there is a new “Rainha de Bateria”, or when the actual one is “re-elected” for the post, the samba-school throws a “crowning party”, where the President presents the muse to the press, to the Drum Section and samba school components. She then pledges her love and commitment to the samba-school flag. Her “ruling period” starts instantly in that ritual, and runs for at least one year ( if nothing goes wrong ). Also important to observe that these queens are not necessarily “fixed” to a specific samba school. Much like soccer or baseball teams, the beauty can represent during her life more than one samba school, but generally is identified by the school / parade with which she had most success during her career. At last, as an interesting curiosity, although the Carnival Drum Queens has all of this repercussion we described above, the performance of the Rainhas de Bateria is incredibly not rated at the official Carnaval contest. This means the Drum-Queen samba dancing “show” and presentation were still not included as a competition criterion. (Many carnival journalists have suggested they should eventually become an official competition criterion.)

Some of the all time legendary Drums Section Queens in Brazil definitely include the following models: Adriane Galisteu, Luiza Brunet, Luma de Oliveira, Monique Evans, Soninha Capeta, Juliana Paes, Viviane Araújo, Luciana Gimenez, and Thatiana Pagung.

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