#36 – Marchinhas

So this is carnival! Eeeeeeh!

Nothing is more Brazilian than real real carnival and a real real carnival needs music. Fortunately, a century ago the real real carnival music was created. They are the marchinhas!

Marchinhas are a genre of music crafted after the rhythm of the military marching songs. They are not like those drill-songs in American movies however. They are a fast-paced music to which you can dance without actually knowing how to dance and they still make the majority of the blocos’ songs. Besides, nearly anything can be played as a marchinha.

(You should read marchinhas remembering that ch, in Portuguese, sounds just like sh in English and that nh sounds like ñ in Spanish or gn in Italian!)

One of the most well-known marchinhas is “Allah-la-ô”, composed by Haroldo Lobo in 1941. Its lyrics, as most of marchinhas, are very simple:

Allah-la-ô, ô ô ô ô ô ô
Mas que calor, ô ô ô ô ô ô
Atravessamos o deserto do Saara
O Sol estava quente, queimou a nossa cara
Allah-la-ô, ô ô ô ô ô ô
Mas que calor, ô ô ô ô ô ô…

Viemos do Egito
E muitas vezes nós tivemos que rezar
Allah, Allah, Allah, meu bom Allah
Mande água pro iôiô
Allah, meu bom Allah.

Basically it is:

Allah-la-ô, it’s so hot! We crossed the Sahara desert, the sun was hot, we were melting

We came from Egypt and every once in a while we had to pray for Allah to give us rain

Of course I can’t translate the ô-ô’s and á-ás.

The undisputable king of marchinhas, however, is Lamartine Babo. Lamartine, born in 1904 and deceased in 1963, was a prolific composer, one who did also some operas and non-marchinha pop music. He is famous for having composed the hymns for the ELEVEN Rio de Janeiro football teams in ONE SINGLE DAY.

Some marchinhas reflect the usual prejudices people had back then (and still have) about race and sexual option. Brazil is not a liberal country, you must be reminded of it. And at that time the notion of “politically correct” wasn’t around yet. But the marchinhas are still played and sung by everyone, as does this one by Lamartine Babo:

O teu cabelo não nega mulata
Porque és mulata na cor
Mas como a cor não pega mulata
Mulata eu quero o teu amor

Tens um sabor bem do Brasil
Tens a alma cor de anil
Mulata mulatinha meu amor
Fui nomeado teu tenente interventor

Quem te inventou meu pancadão
Teve uma consagração
A lua te invejando faz careta
Porque mulata tu não és deste planeta

Quando meu bem vieste à terra
Portugal declarou guerra

A concorrência então foi colossal
Vasco da gama contra o batalhão naval

Which can be translated as follows:

Your hair doesn’t hide it, brown girl
Because your mulata in your skin
But as skin color doesn’t passed from one another
Girl, I want your love

On the streets people usually sing just the first stanza, so I’ll refrain from translating the rest of the lyrics.

One of the well-known and now controversial marchinhas is “Cabeleira do Zezé”, composed by João Roberto Kelly. The lyrics are scandalous by today’s concerns:

Olha a cabeleira do Zezé
Será que ele é?
Será que ele é?

Olha a cabeleira do Zezé
Será que ele é?
Será que ele é?

Será que ele é bossa nova?
Será que ele é Maomé?
Parece que é transviado
Mas isso eu não sei se ele é


Look at Zezé’s haircut
I wonder if he is
I wonder if he is

I wonder if he is bossa nova?
I wonder if he is Mohammad
He looks like he is degenerated
But I’m not certain if he is that

The other king of marchinhas was João de Barro, also known as Braguinha. He composed the Portuguese version of “As três caravelas” which we saw earlier, but he made much more songs. His marchinhas are some of the most beautiful ones that were ever composed, as you can see on the marchinha below, which he composed with the late great Noel Rosa:

A estrela d’alva
No céu desponta
E a lua anda tonta
Com tamanho esplendor
E as pastorinhas
Pra consolo da lua
Vão cantando na rua
Lindos versos de amor

Linda pastora
Morena da cor de Madalena
Tu não tens pena
De mim que vivo tonto com o teu olhar
Linda criança
Tu não me sais da lembrança
Meu coração não se cansa
De sempre e sempre te amar

In English:

The morning star
Already appears in the sky
The moon, still dizzy
Is illuminating everything
And the partygoers
To moon’s pleasure
Go around singing
Beautiful love verses

Beautiful girl
Brown skinned as Madalen
Don’t you worry about me
Who gets dizzy by your gaze
Beautiful child
You face lingers on my memory
My heart won’t rest
Of always and forever loving you

And below you can listen to an one-hour mix of marchinhas! Check it out: