In today's Brazil, the most widespread and popular carnival music is definitely samba. However, this hasn't always been the case. During several decades in the first half of the 20th century, the music most intimately associated with carnivals and public parties in Brazil was the marchinha. Although the heydays of marchinha music are long since gone, it still pops up from time to time on the contemporary Brazilian music scene, both in the occasional album recording and as a carnival soundtrack.
Marchinha simply means “little march” and just as the name indicates, the marchinha music is based on old European march music, widely used for example in military contexts. The main difference between a marchinha and a typical European march is that a marchinha is performed much faster and with a much livelier and more playful feel, as marchinas are of course composed for happy festivals and carnivals, as opposed to solemn military parades. Typically, Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments are utilized to perform marchinha music.
Example of marchinha music
Click to listen:
A Banda, Chico Buarque, 1966
Marcha da 4a-feira de cinzas,
Vinícius de Morães & Toquinho, 1975