Brazil Carnival music comes in many genres, and one of the best-loved is the marchinha. "Little Carnival marches" are the quintessential sound of the Carnival ball and many a bloco parade; countless people all over the world know at least this one.
Inspired by works such as The Top Ten Oldies of the Year, 1955-1979, an admirable tour de force by my colleague Robert Fontenot, I wanted to come up at least with a concise selection of classic marchinhas for the international traveler who wishes to get more involved in the shared joy of Brazil Carnival.
There are hundreds of marchinhas. By including top classics and being unabashedly partial when choosing between, say, equally popular hits by the same songwriter, I've arrived at this list of 30 Great Carnival Marchinhas. Many of them would be unanimous choices; you'll be able to tell by the way the crowd reacts whenever the brass band strikes their first notes.
I learned the most innocent songs on the list very early as a child in Andaraí, Rio; my little brother and I were first introduced to them by our mom. We lived on the second floor of that building in the photo, and I have many happy memories of her singing those and a wondrous amount of other Brazilian and South American classics in her silky contralto and encouraging us to sing with her. (She still sings beautifully and the choir of which she is a member put on quite a wonderful performance last Christmas.)
New marchinhas were played on the radio as Carnival approached, and by the time the festival rolled in, it was easy to sing along at the parties. That Carnival in the photo, I believe we went to the baile infantil, or kid's Carnival ball, at the Tijuca Tênis Clube. One of my top three favorite marchinhas at that age was "Touradas em Madrid", and it still is.
I hope you enjoy listening to these hits, singing along with the lyrics and maybe learning a few of them by heart. And if you're in Brazil this Carnival, have a wonderful time!
Photo: The Carnival I was six. Snapshot by Dad.