Carnival Songs: Mamãe Eu Quero

Well it’s that time of year again – carnival lovers start planning their fantasias while carnival haters start looking for a quiet country pousada where they can escape the mayhem.

This will be my fourth carnival and I’m really looking forward to it. Contrary to what you might expect, I have enjoyed each carnival more than the one before. This has been due to knowing what to expect, better planning, and getting to know the marchinhas (traditional carnival songs).

That last point might sound strange, but imagine yourself surrounded by thousands of people who are having the time of their lives, all singing their hearts out to what sounds like a really catchy song. Only problem is you don’t even know the tune, let alone the words. Sure there are worse things that can happen to you, but still, it’s more fun when you know the songs.

With that in mind, I’m adding another classic marchinha to my list of classic Carnival Songs that everyone should know. Mamãe Eu Quero, written by Vicente Paiva in 1936, is one of the most popular marchinhas of all time. Paiva was born in 1908 in São Paulo and sadly I could only find one picture of him.


Vicente Paiva may not have left a lot of photos, but his music is still going strong.

As well as being a composer, Paiva was also a pianist, singer and arranger. Mamãe Eu Quero is probably the song he is best known for, though he was no one-hit wonder – he also wrote O Cordão da Bola Preta and Voltei Pro Morro

But let’s get to his greatest success. Mamãe Eu Quero (Mummy I want it) was recorded in December 1936 by friends and collaborators, Jararaca and Almirante. Released in early 1937, the song was a huge hit in that year’s carnival. Here is that original version:

 That slightly weird intro was not part of the plan, but somehow it made it onto the final recording!


OK, so it’s a nice song, but that version does feel rather pedestrian – apparently Almirante was the only one convinced it would be a success.

Now that you’ve heard the original, I’ll play you my favourite rendition. Carmen Miranda was described as the most famous Brazilian woman of the 20th century and deserves a post of her own (coming soon):


 This version is much more upbeat and chirpy don’t you think?


I’ve included the lyrics at the bottom of the post but don’t expect them to make a huge amount of sense. The first lines involve a baby crying that it wants to suckle (mamar) to which the response is to give it a pacifier/dummy (dá chupeta, not “dash of pepper”!). Beyond that I can’t tell you much as it all goes a bit weird.

All the talk of suckling and putting pacifiers in mouths makes me suspect that there could be some double entendres going on, but then maybe I’ve just got a dirty mind! I’ll leave you with something far more wholesome – Tom and Jerry!



Mamãe eu quero, mamãe eu quero
Mamãe eu quero mamar!
Dá a chupeta, ai, dá a chupeta
Dá a chupeta pro bebê não chorar!

Dorme filhinho do meu coração
Pega a mamadeira e vem entra no meu cordão
Eu tenho uma irmã que é fenomenal
Ela é da bossa e o marido é um boçal

Eu olho as pequenas, mas daquele jeito
E tenho muita pena não ser criança de peito
Eu tenho uma irmã que se chama Ana
De piscar o olho já ficou sem a pestana


7 replies
  1. Phil
    Phil says:

    At long last, Carmen Miranda gets some love from EatRio! I can’t wait for your upcoming post about her. She sang the definitive version of “Mamãe Eu Quero,” whose lyrics are admittedly weird.

    Speaking of singers from the past, take a listen to this version of “Aquarela do Brasil” sung by Francisco Alves, who was known as “O Rei da Voz,” and with good reason. I’m pretty sure that this was the first recording of the song:

    Both Francisco and Carmen trill their “r’s” in words like “terra,” and Carmen really trills the “r” at the beginning of a word, giving it a very Spanish sound. I’ve heard various explanations for this (Carmen was born in Portugal, it’s a regional Brazilian accent, people used to pronounce the “r” differently, etc.) but I don’t know which (if any) of these theories is correct.

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Thanks Phil. I really like “Aquarela do Brasil” – it’s a grand old song isn’t it – especially as sung by Francisco. Slightly offputting that I can’t hear it without thinking of Brazil, that unsettling Terry Gilliam film.

      I noticed the Rs too – my guess was that it’s a Portuguese accent thing, but I could also believe the idea of it being simply the way they spoke back then. Interesting!

  2. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    My friends never taught me any of the songs, the only one I realized I was hearing over and over, that I could sing part of it, had the lyrics “Tem Carnaval” (país tropical). It was amazing though, being in a crowded party, and having everyone around you singing songs. I cannot think of any song that everyone would sing here in the US. Carnival really blew my mind.

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah, I love that one (País Tropical) – we were just talking yesterday about how nice it is the way Brazilians all sing together – always gives me tingles and brought a guest on one of our recent food tour to tears. Sweet! 😀

  3. Richard Le Mesurier
    Richard Le Mesurier says:

    I was inspired by your post and that song to read up about Carmen Miranda, Tom. Amazing joie de vivre she seemed to have as well as a naughty sense of humour. I gather she mastered the skill of bilingual double entendres. V much looking forward to your post about her. Have a great Carnival.


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