10 Famous Brazilian Songs (that every Portuguese Student should know)

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Using famous Brazilian songs to study Portuguese has not only connected me with the culture but been some of the most fun language learning I’ve ever done.

In fact–Brazilian music was one of my biggest motivators to learn the language!

By the end of this article, students will…

  1. …know some of the most famous Brazilian songs…
  2. …which will give them an overview of the most important genres of Brazilian music…
  3. …and know how to use all of this to improve their Brazilian Portuguese!

So plug in your headphones and have fun!

When I first started learning Portuguese, I daydreamed about a future trip to Brazil where I would try new food in busy cities, fall asleep on sunny beaches, and go hiking in shady jungles.

But when those plans got postponed indefinitely, I knew I wanted to continue studying Portuguese… but had to look beyond textbooks full of grammar and the same vocabulary. (Portuguese isn’t especially hard to learn, but unless I could quickly find new goals it would be nearly impossible to maintain.)

I discovered many of these famous Brazilian songs by accident, trying to connect with the culture and maintain my motivation to learn the language. I made playlist after playlist of things I could listen to while washing dishes, going on errands, or just going about my day.

Right away, I noticed how much I was accidentally learning about the history and culture of Brazil. Waiting in line or procrastinating at work, I’d find myself googling song titles or lyrics.

From there, I’d fall down rabbit holes of Brazilian history or the stories behind the songs. After only a few months, I found that I could actually piece together a full timeline of the 20th century in Brazil!

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 But what surprised me the most is how much my Portuguese vocabulary improved. New words were floating into my head (and sticking there) by magic.

It turns out, all I needed was a little curiosity and a lot of consistency.

Here’s how I used famous Brazilian songs to help me connect not only with the Portuguese language but Brazilian culture:

1. Make yourself a great playlist.

Each one of these songs is from an amazing Brazilian musician–and most have massive catalogs of music. Make yourself some playlists sorted by genre or mood and use this list as a starting point. 

To make it easier for you to take the first steps in this regard, Tropical Portuguese created some playlists you should check out.  Start with this very playlist on Spotify here.

2. Listen over and over to your favorite Brazilian songs.

All of these songs are super catchy–so learning their lyrics won’t be hard, even if you don’t 100% understand the Portuguese.

3. Lookup (and translate) the lyrics.

Once you know the songs by heart, look up the lyrics to make sure you understand the Portuguese enough. Then, try your best at translating the songs into your native language. (Because these songs are famous in Brazil, you can normally find translated versions into English online.)

4. Learn the history behind every famous Brazilian song.

Each one of these songs has a story, from indigenous struggles to the fight against martial law. My suggestion is to read articles on each musician on Wikipedia, then heading over to Portuguese YouTube to find interviews, documentaries, and more. (And if you’re serious about using music to improve your Portuguese, you can also use free language learning habit trackers make sure you use music consistently and effectively.)

5. Find a teacher who loves Brazilian music.

Click here to book a private class with Tropical Portuguese and start discovering Brazil’s rich history and culture through language learning. (Or, if you’re not sure you’re ready to start speaking Portuguese yet, check out Tropical Portuguese’s free eBook to jump-start your ability to start speaking like a native!)

10 famous Brazilian songs that you need to know

Without further ado, here are the 10 most famous Brazilian songs that every Portuguese student should know!

(If you end up singing any of these at a karaoke bar in Rio one day, come back to this post and let us know in the comments!)

Rap da Felicidade

Artist:Cidinho e Doca  

Year: 1994

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: 

We’ll start of our master list with a bit of Brazilian funk.

Some music historians and critiques credit Rap da Felicidade as one of the first songs to usher in a new era of music in the country (far different than what you’ll see further down on this list). Fusing together the danceable disco from the decades before and the contagious rap being imported in from the US, Brazilian funk is one of the most fun genres of contemporary music (and since it’s birth, has largely taken over the airwaves).

Canto de Ossanha

Artist: Baden Powel and Vinícius de Moraes

Year: 1966

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: Canto de Ossanha is credited with opening up Brazil (and the world) to the genre of afro-sambas. The genre mixes captivating rhythms brought over from Africa with sad and beautiful melodies, but before the 60s was either prosecuted or ignored by the country.

Apesar de Você 

Artist: Chico Buarque

Year: 1970

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song:

Chico made his musical debut in the 1960s as bossa nova and música popular began to explode in popularity. Unfortunately, that wave of pop music coincided with the Brazilian military government, who took over the country in 1964. Apesar de Você was a barely-veiled critique of the new military rule in the country but was somehow overlooked by governmental censors. Within a few months, it became the anthem of the Brazilian resistance against authoritarianism. Throughout the 70s-80s, Chico worked with filmmakers, playwrights, and musicians from across Brazil to protest the government through art. Now, 35 years after the military government’s end, Chico is still actively creating music. His 2017 album Caravanas being the 3rd highest-selling album in Brazil that year. [source]

I added a live version to this post so readers had the social context, but for a better-sounding recording, you can click here.

Panis et Circencis

Artist: Os Mutantes

Year: 1968

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: The album Tropicália ou Panis et Circencis could be seen as the “manifesto” of the artistic movement. A collaboration between Brasilian music giants Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Nara Leão, and Tom Zé, the album (and musical project Os Mutantes) stands apart in Brasilian music history. This album title track is a great sample of the sounds of the moment.

If you want to see a live performance, check out this one from a French TV channel.

Alegria, Alegria

Artist: Caetano Veloso

Year: 1967

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: Caetano Veloso literally wrote the book on the Brazilian music genre Tropicália. Decades after the song’s launch, it’s still much-requested in live performances with the artist to this day.

Eventually, Caetano went on to win more Grammys than any other Brazilian musician in history (2 US Grammys and 9 Latin Grammys) and was the opening performer for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

(For more on Caetano’s life, read about the next song on this list.)

Toda Menina Baiana

Artist: Gilberto Gil

Year: 1977

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: Giberto Gil’s career has spanned 50 years of Brazilian music history, and is considered a key figure in both the tropicália and música popular brasileira movements. And sure he’s won plenty of Grammys, like many artists on this list. But he and Caetano Veloso were the only artists on this list who the former Brazilian military regime felt were enough of a threat to kidnap in 1969.

Thankfully, the political tides eventually changed. In 2001 UNESCO named Gilberto a UNESCO Artist for Peace and soon after he served on Lula’s cabinet as the Minister of Culture. He’s still active in music now, winning his most recent Grammy in 2019.

Asa Branca

Artist: Luiz Gonzaga

Year: 1947

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: Luiz Gonzaga is often credited with popularizing (if not inventing) the musical genre baiāo. Setting Northeastern Brazilian folk music to a pop tune years before the Beatles, his musical height was likely between 1941-1952. Around 20 years later with the rise of pop in the rest of the world, his music was rediscovered and covered by popular Brazilian musicians in the 1960s and 70s, during which his music saw a revival in popularity.


Artist: Pixinguinha

Year: 1916

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song:

How did a Brazilian song over 100 years old make it onto this list? Because despite decades of rerecording and distortion, it’s still the most well-known música popular brasileira of all times. You’ll hear it covered or remixed throughout the centuries by artists like Marisa Monte, Orlando Silva, or Joāo Giberto, so don’t blow it off as just music history.

Águas de Março 

Artist: Elis Regina & Tom Jobim

Year: 1974

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song:

In a 2001 poll by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Brazilians voted Águas de Março as the most important Brazilian song of all time. It’s catchy lyrics paint a collage of the heavy rains of March (the wettest, by far, month in the tropical country) and will probably be the go-to karaoke song when you’re out with friends on some future trip to the country.

Garota de Ipanema

Artist: Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz

Year: 1962

Why you need to know this famous Brazilian song: “The Girl from Ipanema” was the Brazilian song that introduced the world to Bossa Nova. In 1965 not only did it win Record of the Year but hit top-ranking spots Billboard charts across the world. It’s probably the most-known Brazilian song outside of Brazil but is also one of the most important songs in the country’s music history. 

Are there other famous Brazilian songs that should have been on this list?

Do you think we missed any important Brazilian songs that should have been Top 10? Or have these famous Brazilian songs inspired you to improve your Portuguese?

Leave a comment with your thoughts or recommendations below!

Marissa Blaszko
Marissa Blaszko

Marissa is a Polish-American graphic designer and traveler who learns languages for work and fun. She makes content about language learning (and relearning) as @MultilingualMarissa on Instagram or “Relearn A Language” on YouTube.


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