Samba is one of Brazil's most important styles of music of dance. (You can read more about the origins of samba here.) Samba is intrinsically linked to Rio de Janeiro and the Carnival, and we were lucky enough to experience some of it in Rio. At the last dinner meeting of my boyfriend's conference, the samba school Mangueira gave an awesome taste of what they do during Carnival.
The King and Queen of Mangueira 2008:
For many people in Rio, the carneval is something they work towards all year (except for the two months after carneval is over.) The samba schools (Escolas de samba) are neighbourhood associations that put on the amazing parades during Carnival. All the members participate in practicing, preparing, writing, coreographing, building, sewing and all the other things that have to be done. Each samba school (there are about 20, I think) will have a theme for their Carnival parade, for instance a historical event.
Here is a video from the same samba school, Mangueira, during Carnival 2007 - where they were the winners.