To my mother, with all my love and many thanks for decades of blissful singing sessions.
Updated on April 29, 2013
Marchinhas are one of the best-loved types of Carnival music in Brazil. These short songs with fiery or mellow tempo, satirical or poetic themes, at times peppered with references to heavy drinking or sexual innuendo, had their golden era in the first half of the 20th century but never lost their swing.
Rio de Janeiro was the capital of marchinhas. However, each new hit quickly spread to the rest of Brazil, especially with the oncoming of the radio boom in the 1930s and the launching of new Carnival songs by some of the age's most popular performers on Rio de Janeiro-based station Roquete Pinto.
Recording companies released supplements with the words and radio stations started playing the new hits in December so that everyone knew how to sing them when Carnival rolled in.
Carmen Miranda and her sister Aurora Miranda, Mário Reis, Marlene, Emilinha Borba, Francisco Alves and Silvio Caldas were some of the stars who performed marchinhas. Some of the great songwriters who devoted their creativity to them each Carnival were Braguinha (aka João de Barro), Lamartine Babo and Noel Rosa.
The marchinha tradition continues - original songs are launched every year in all regions, and some Brazil Carnival is closely tied to these new releases, such as Carnival in São Luiz do Paraitinga. In Rio de Janeiro, Fundição Progresso has done a lot for the genre with its Carnival events and marchinha contest.
Though lots of other Carnival genres such as samba school themes, pagode and axé have become increasingly popular in bloco parades or at Carnival parties, the brass bands are likely to play dozens of marchinhas. They are the theme of a successful musical, Sassaricando, named after a 1952 hit.
Since there are so many marchinhas - this collection of lyrics and sound files on Terra.com has over 700 of them - there are likely to be as many top lists as there are revelers. This list (more about it here) is a personal cut which many Brazil Carnival music aficionados will agree with, at least partly. Enjoy recognizing them as you party your way through the universe of Brazil Carnival.
Feb.29, 2012 Update: The Top 30 list has been revised to include "Marcha do Cordão do Bola Preta"; now it looks just right. The link to the lyrics for "Está Chegando a Hora" has been corrected.
- "Abre Alas" (Chiquinha Gonzaga, 1899)
Songwriter, conductor, musician and abolitionist Chiquinha Gonzaga (1847-1935) wrote what is considered the first true Carnival song in Brazil's history. The engaging melody and the lyrics asking for free passage for the revelers is a timeless work of art sung with gusto by people of all ages at Carnival parties. The song is not to be confused with later work "Abre Alas" by J. Piedade e Jorge Fáraj (1939), which refers to it in melody and words.
Video with Brazil music divas Marlene, Emilinha and Angela Maria
- "Ta-hi" (Joubert de Carvalho, 1930)
The upbeat love and heartbreak song which launched Carmen Miranda's career to national success.
Carmen Miranda audio
- "A E I O U" (Noel Rosa and Lamartine Babo, 1931)
A perfect example of the genre's nonsensical funny bone, "A E I O U" tells the tale of a girl who hasn't quite learned her primer, then ends up seasick on a boat trip to Asia with a corporal.
A E I O U sung by Lamartine Babo, with lyrics
- "O Teu Cabelo Não Nega" (Lamartine Babo and Irmãos Valença, 1931)
The racially incorrect slant in the title and in a few lines of "Your Hair Doesn't Deny" ("that you're mulatta in color, but since color is not contagious, I want your love") - in this celebration of a Brazilian beauty haven't prevented it from staying a hit through the years and being enthusiastically sung and played by people of black heritage.
Lyrics and video
- "Linda Morena" (Lamartine Babo, 1932)
"Beautiful Brunette", a marchinha with delightful lyrics and a catchy tune, is one of the greatest hits by Lamartine Babo (1904-1963), known both for his poetic and funny songs. The chorus says the full moon doesn't shine as bright as a certain morena's eyes.
Linda Morena sung by Mario Reis
- "Cidade Maravilhosa" (André Filho, 1935)
When released, the song celebrating Rio de Janeiro, the "Wonderful City" was performed by Aurora Miranda, Carmen Miranda's sister. It gained such popularity and importance that it became a symbol for Rio. Through the years, it became a traditional choice for the very last song played in a Carnival ball, so that its unmistakable first notes, heard on a Fat Tuesday, are known to cause a certain melancholy in passionate revelers.
Cidade Maravilhosa sung by Aurora Miranda
- "Marcha do Cordão do Bola Preta" (Nelson Barbosa and Vicente Paiva, 1935; relaunched in 1962)
The great, official Cordão da Bola Preta theme song. The bloco is listed as immaterial Rio de Janeiro heritage.
Sound file with Carmen Costa
- "Balancê" (João de Barro and Alberto Ribeiro, 1936)
A lover invites his girl to dance in the "balancê", or swing of Carnival. The catchy Carmen Miranda hit came back in full force in the Carnival of 1980 after being recorded by Gal Costa.
Balancê sung by Gal Costa
- "Mamãe Eu Quero" (Jararaca-Vicente Paiva, 1936)
You've seen "Mamãe Eu Quero" sung and played and lip-synched and made fun of by Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, the Marx Brothers and Tom & Jerry, but Carmen Miranda will always rule as the singer of the world's best-known marchinha.
The chorus of "Mamãe Eu Quero" is something children can relate to – a baby asking to be nursed (or given a bottle) and for a pacifier (chupeta). The song's innuendos ("mamar" as a term for nursing and a slang word for drinking, a sister who winks so much she's lost her eyelashes, and, in the second stanza, a guy who looks at the chicks and wishes he were a nursing child) only dawn on one much later.
Mamãe Eu Quero sung by Carmen Miranda
- "Yes, Nós Temos Bananas" (João de Barro and Alberto Ribeiro, 1938)
Inspired by the 1923 song "Yes, We Have no Bananas" by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, "Yes, We Have Bananas" is a self-effacing comeback at the view of Brazil as a Banana Republic. The tropical bountifulness in lines such as "banana para quem quiser" (bananas for whoever wants them) carries a double meaning: "banana" is also a slang for the forearm jerk.
Lyrics and video
- "Pastorinhas" (João de Barro and Noel Rosa, 1938)
This delicate marcha-rancho (a softer type of marchinha) by two of the greatest songwriters in Brazil is still a favorite played by Carnival bands when the crowd needs a break from intense dancing. Pastorinhas (Shepherdesses) are a folk element present in some traditional forms of Brazil Carnival, such as Pernambuco's bloco lírico.
Video with Silvio Caldas
- "A Jardineira" (Benedito Lacerda and Humberto Porto, 1938)
In this poetic song, a gardener is crying for a camellia that died in her garden. The singer tells her not to be sad, as she's much more beautiful than the flower. According to historians, "A Jardineira" is the version of a song dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
A Jardineira sung by Orlando Silva in the Brazilian movie Garota Enxuta (dir. J. B. Tanko, 1959)
- "Touradas em Madrid" (João de Barro and Alberto Ribeiro, 1938)
The song about a Brazilian man who went to the bullfights in Madrid, met and left a Spanish woman who wanted him to grab a bull by the horns and play castanets is one of the most popular marchinhas of all time. In this YouTube video, you can watch Trio Irakitan perform the song in the movie Garota Enxuta (dir. J. B. Tanko, 1959); great Brazilian comedian Grande Otelo (1915-1993) is the bullfighter, facing an ox from bumba-meu-boi.
- "Aurora" (Mário Lago and Roberto Roberti, 1940)
Aurora could have had it all: a beautiful apartment with A/C in a building with an elevator and a porter, as well as people calling her Madame - but she messed it all up with her insincerity, or at least someone (an ex?) tells us so in this delightful and ubiquitous classic. In an interview, Mário Lago said that the song was written on the Ash Wednesday of 1939. He ran into an excited Roberto Roberti who had the first notes and words ready and urged him to finish the song with him, which they did by the end of that afternoon.
Aurora sung by Joel & Gaúcho
- "Allah-lá-ô" (Haroldo Lobo and Nássara, 1941)
Thirsty people coming from Egypt ask Allah to send water to ioiô and iaiá (terms used by Brazilian slaves to address young masters) in this culturally incorrect salad typical of marchinhas.
Lyrics and video with Carlos Galhardo
- "Praça Onze" (Herivelto Martins/Grande Otelo, 1941)
This song which had its theme suggested to songwriter Herivelto Martins by actor Grande Otelo is a farewell to Praça Onze, a square in Rio de Janeiro and a Carnival parade central which would be demolished for the construction of Avenida Presidente Vargas. Not so popular in today's festivities, the song is a beautiful celebration of an important time for Brazil samba and Carnival and as such, a historic document.
Lyrics and audio file with Trio de Ouro on the excellent Receita de Samba blog.
- "Nós, os Carecas" (Roberto Roberti and Arlindo Marques Jr, 1942)
Bald men, rejoice: when things get rough ("na hora do aperto", which also means "when it's time for a squeeze") it's bald men women like best, says this huge Carnival hit.
- "Pirata da Perna de Pau" (João de Barro, 1947)
This buccaneer's ship is more like a harem; when another pirate tries boarding, he shouts, from the stern: "Opa! Homem, não!" ("Hey! No men allowed!").
Video with Nuno Roland in the movie Garota Enxuta
- "Chiquita Bacana" (João de Barro and Alberto Ribeiro, 1949)
Chiquita Bacana ("Cool Chiquita") is an existentialist who dresses in a banana peel and follows her heart in everything she does.
Chiquita Bacana sung by Emilinha Borba
- "Confete" (David Nasser and Jota Júnior, 1951)
An immediate hit in Francisco Alves's smooth voice, this lovely marchinha refers to confetti found on a costume as a "colorful little piece of saudade", here meaning the longing for last Carnival's romance with a girl in a Columbine costume.
Lyrics and sound file with Francisco Alves
Sound file by Francisco Alves
- "Sassaricando" (Luís Antônio and Jota Júnior, 1952)
Everyone is flirting, even the old man in front of Confeitaria Colombo, in this song made famous by musical theater star Virginia Lane.
Video with Virginia Lane
- "Cachaça Não é Água" (Mirabeau Pinheiro-Lúcio de Castro-Heber Lobato, 1953)
The most popular among several Carnival songs on Brazil's famous drink warns that cachaça is NOT water (and explains the difference). The singer says that he can go without rice, beans, bread, butter and love, as long as he has cachaça.
Lyrics and sound file
- "Saca-Rolha" (José Gonçalves, aka Zé da Zilda; Zilda Gonçalves, aka Zilda do Zé, and Valdir Machado, 1954)
The Corkscrew is the most thoroughly soaked of all Carnival marchinhas with drinking as a theme. "The waters will roll" and no full bottles left - you get the picture.
Lyrics and sound file with Zé da Zilda and Zilda do Zé
- "Tem Nêgo Bêbo Aí" (Mirabeau and Ayrton Amorim, 1955)
One can't even slip on a banana peel or step into a bar just to drink a parati (cachaça) - the crowd at the bar shouts "Xi! Tem nego bebo aí!" (Oops! Somebody is boozed up!) Few people fail to sing this marchinha, first released by legendary singer Carmen Costa, at the top of their lungs on today's Carnival dance floors or in bloco parades.
Sound file with Carmen Costa
- "Me Dá um Dinheiro Aí" (Ivan Ferreira, Homero Ferreira and Glauco Ferreira, 1959)
In this very popular ditty, a totally impertinent someone is asking for money and threatening to get drunk and make a big mess if he doesn't get it.
Lyrics and video
- "Marcha do Remador" (Antônio Almeida and Oldemar Magalhães, 1964)
All-star singer Emilinha Borba first turned the Oarsman's March into one of the most successful Carnival songs of all time. Somewhere along the song's history, the chorus ("If the canoe doesn't turn over, I'll get there") got twisted by the crowds into "If this **** doesn't turn over..." - but nothing stops the well-mannered reveler from singing the original lyrics.
Marcha do Remador sung by Emilinha Borba
- "Mulata Iê Iê Iê" (João Roberto Kelly, 1965)
One of the best songs celebrating the beauty of the Brazilian mulatta, "Mulata Iê Iê Iê" was inspired by a Miss Brazil: Vera Lúcia Couto dos Santos, who won the contest in 1964 representing Guanabara State and later got third place in Miss International.
Sound File on YouTube
- "Máscara Negra" (Zé Keti and Hildebrando Marques, 1967)
The song about the reunion of a reveling couple - one of them a pierrot, the other in a black mask - one year after they kissed in another masquerade is the theme of this soft ballad usually played with a faster ending by the brass band.
- "Bandeira Branca" (Max Nunes and Laércio Alves, 1970)
At the closing of the golden era of marchinhas rises "Bandeira Branca" (White Flag), a song about breakup which is always welcome as a mellow respite from intense dancing at a Carnival ball. The song was one of the last hits performed by Dalva de Oliveira (1917-1972), one of the greatest Brazilian singers of all time, and it's been beautifully performed by some of today's young talents, such as Teresa Cristina.
Bandeira Branca sung by Teresa Cristina
- "A Filha da Chiquita Bacana" (Caetano Veloso, 1977)
Caetano Veloso's musical genius revisited Chiquita Bacana with a portrait of her daughter, a feminist living on an island, in this marchinha with a hypnotically intense beat and redolent of Northeastern rhythms. The song was released on the 1977 album Muitos Carnavais. Caetano Veloso also released it as a mix with the frevo "Chuva, Suor e Cerveja" (Rain, Sweat and Beer) in the album Circuladô Vivo (Polygram, 1992); you can listen to the sound file on the Official Caetano Veloso website.
Video with Silvia Machete
Other Popular Marchinhas:
- "O Cordão dos Puxa-Saco" (Roberto Martins and Erastótenes Frazão)
An intelligent 1930s song poking fun at sycophants.
Sound file (with an intro from "No bico da Chaleira", a 1907 Carnival polka by João José da Costa Júnior which became a hit in the Carnival of 1909 with lyrics making fun of the sycophantic followers of a powerful senator)
- "Daqui Não Saio" (Almir Rouche)
A song about evictions from the point of view of a parent of four kids.
Lyrics and sound file
- "Vai com Jeito" (Braguinha)
Advice for a young woman: be careful if someone invites you to remote beaches (such as Barra da Tijuca in 1957).
Sound file with Emilinha Borba
- "Está Chegando a Hora" (Henricão and Rubens Campos)
Beautiful version of "Cielito Lindo" with a farewell twist, often played at the end of a Carnival ball.
Song with Carmen Costa
- "Índio Quer Apito" (Haroldo Lobo and Milton de Oliveira)
Culturally incorrect? Clearly. Catchy to a fault? You decide when you listen to "Indian Wants Whistle".
Lyrics and sound file
- "Joga a Chave, Meu Amor" (João Roberto Kelly and J. Rui)
A lover asking his sweetheart to throw a key out the window so he can get back in from his roaming is the theme of this ultra-simple hit. The song is not to be confused (yet sometimes the lyrics on some websites are) with "Joga a Chave", one of the greatest songs by Adoniran Barbosa.
Joga a Chave sung by Jorge Goulart
- "Cabeleira do Zezé" (João Roberto Kelly)
The fact that the marchinha about a guy's long hair has a pause with an insinuation of homosexuality (usually filled by crowds with the Brazilian term for "fag" - bicha) doesn't stop it from being a hit in LGBT Carnival parties.
Lyrics and sound file
- "Maria Sapatão" (João Roberto Kelly)
The dubious celebration of lesbianism, which uses sapatão, a more derogatory term than dyke, is sung at Carnival by revelers of all sexual orientations.
Lyrics and sound file with TV host Cacrinha
- "Marcha da Cueca" (Carlos Meneses, Livardo Alves and Sardinho)
Carnival nonsense encapsulated: A man is looking for the person who stole his underpants (a present from his girlfriend) to make a dishcloth.
Lyrics and video
- "Hino do Flamengo" (Lamartine Babo)
Not every sports fan has a fight song with the swing of this classic. The song celebrating Rio-based Flamengo, one of Brazil's most popular soccer teams, became a Carnival hit.
Lyrics and sound file
- Coração Corintiano" (Silvio Santos)
Corinthians F. C., another nationally popular team, is the theme of this marchinha, written by Brazil's most famous TV mogul/host and a must at all São Paulo Carnival parties.
Video with Silvio Santos