The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the most world-famous of Brazil’s festivities. Therefore, one would expect that the moment of donning one of those costumes and stepping onto Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue would be long awaited by all those who participate in the samba parade. Imagine then if you are chosen to take on one of the most important posts of the whole show, that of Queen of the Drums, the most famous of all the samba dancers, chosen for her friendliness, beauty and also that samba skill known as samba no pé.


So it is to be expected that emotion also took over Evelyn Bastos when she was chosen as the Queen of the Drums of one of Brazil’s most famous samba schools: the Estação Primeira de Mangueira samba school, from the Mangueira neighbourhood in Rio.


She was born and bred right in the heart of the Mangueira Hill, and from a very early age showed that samba dancing and also the samba school were her life. She was Queen of the Drums at the Mangueira do Amanhã (Mangueira of Tomorrow, Mangueira’s youth samba school), showing what she could do even before finishing primary school. Now 22 years old, she shall lead the drums of the famous pink-and-green school for the third time, this being a career which she manages to conciliate with her University course in Physical Education at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).


Samba and reign: a family tradition


The tradition of dancing the samba to perfection definitely runs in the family. Her mother, Valéria Bastos, was also the Queen of the Drums at Mangueira herself between 1987 and 1989. In addition, her sister Emelyn, aged only 10, won a contest run by the samba school in December and shall not be at the front of the junior drummers of the pink-and-green school at the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in 2016.


Evelyn Bastos already has several awards under her belt in her successful career as a samba dancer. She was elected the muse of the ‘Caldeirão do Huck’ programme of TV Globo, Brazil’s most important television station, in 2012; the following year, in 2013, she was voted the Queen of Carnival. She puts her success down to a lot of dedication and hard work. When Carnival draws near, she gets to sleep only three hours a day. She also sticks to a strict diet, which gets to be stressful at times.


Mangueira is one of the most famous and most traditional samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. The Estação Primeira de Mangueira school was founded by some people who would later become famous in Rio de Janeiro samba, such as Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho. Even so, the school has not won the Rio Carnival since 2002, which only increases Evelyn Bastos’ responsibilities at the head of the drummers.


The purpose of the Queen of the Drums is to encourage the group of drummers to give their best during the parade, and also to get the spectators in the stands involved. As the drummers of the Mangueira school did not get any top marks in 2015, now one must just wait and see if Evelyn’s brightness will captivate the drummers this year.