A Brazilian Music Guide from Freaky to Fancy

Brazilian Music

Latenight Brazilian Music Tutorial – Learning the Lepo Lepo under the Arches of Lapa

It’s 4:15AM on a Sunday morning and the party is hitting that pivotal moment; do I have what it takes to rally or is it time to throw in the towel?

Fortunately on this particular night, two lovely brunettes and a provocative Brazilian song made that decision for me.

While the dance floor was packed with a bountiful supply of shirtless men and beautiful women throughout the night, it was one particular song that rejuvenated the crowd from the moment the first saxy note dropped.

As the chorus began, I noticed two Brazilian girls break into a choreographed dance that the entire club seemed to know. I shuffled over and asked what was going on and they I told me that I needed to learn.

Not one to pass up a cultural experience, I got my second wind and attentively followed their directions.

By the time we left the club and walked through the Arches of Lapa, I had learned the basics of “Lepo Lepo,” hands down the most popular song in Rio de Janeiro right now.

The chorus basically goes something like this… I don’t have a car, I don’t have a house, so if you’re with me it’s because you like the way I get down. Haha!

Music provides a direct peek into the soul of a place and moment in time, to see, hear and feel a culture in a completely unique way. It has been moments like this late night in Lapa that have helped me begin to understand life as a local in Brazil; a place where music, dancing and celebration is such a major part of the culture.

Besides the terribly awesome Brazilian pop hits like “Lepo Lepo,” Brazil has probably the most diverse selection of music of any country I’ve been to.

Here are seven of the most popular genres of Brazilian music that you should add to your worldly playlist.

Funk Carioca

Born in the favelas of Rio in the 1980s, the American influenced Brazilian hip-hop known as Funk (funk-e) has became a very popular genre in the city and across the world. From the traditional favela funk parties in Rio de Janeiro to the megaclubs in Europe, funk is telling a different side to the Brazilian story and catching some heat on the come up.

Famous Brazilian Funk artists include DJ Marlboro, Bonde do Tigrao, MC Naldo, MC Sapão, MC Marcinho, Anitta, Quadradrinho de 8 (great music video), Buchecha and Mr Catra. The biggest funk/pop hit right now is “Beijinho No Ombro” by Valesca Popozuda. She’s a fascinating blend between Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj!

Despite the elaborate video, the lyrics have a good message about shrugging off the haters and negative people in your life. Basically saying “a kiss on the shoulder” means pay them no mind, like brushing the dirt off your shoulders.

Best line: “I wish long life for all my enemies, So they can see us winning everyday”


Switching gears, frevo is a traditional fast-tempo music style associated with Brazilian Carnival that originated in the Pernambuco region of Brazil. Frevo musicians use brass instruments like trumpets, trombones, tubas and saxophones and it sounds like American Polka or parade music. Great for a street party but not really something you’ll have dinner to.

Most frevo is known by large music groups, but there some very popular individual frevo artists like Elba Ramalho and Zé Ramalho, from the northeast of Brazil.


Synonymous with Brazil, Samba is a music style and dance that grew from African roots and originated at Pedra do Sal in Rio de Janeiro. Traditionally, the samba is played with strings and various percussion instruments such as drums and tambourines, but now samba also includes trombones, trumpets, flutes, and clarinets.

Although it was everywhere during Carnival, I still can’t get the hang of the quick steps and movements of the samba dance. I need to take lessons.

There are many famous Brazilian samba artists including Arlindo Cruz, Fundo de Quintal, Leci Brandão, Beth Carvalho, Jorge Aragão, Zeca Pagodinho, Grupo Revelação and Joao Nogueira.

This is one of my favorite Brazilian samba songs…


What Samba is to Rio de Janeiro, Forró is to the northeast – it’s everywhere. If you ask me, it’s a slower version of salsa, but every time I say that to a Brazilian they are quick to say absolutely not, it’s completely different. Yet, when I dance salsa to forró music, nobody seems to notice.

There are a few different variations of forró from traditional (below) to a slow forró which I really enjoy (watch this video and I dare you to tell me it doesn’t turn you).

Famous Brazilian forró artists include Avioes do Forro,  Falamansa, Calcinha Preta and the godfathor of forró, Luis Gonzaga…


Axe is a fusion of a variety of other music genres such as frevo, forro, reggae and calypso, and like many other Brazilian beats, it originated in the northeast. Listen for yourself and hear all the musical ingredients involved.

Famous Brazilian axé artists include Timbalada, Chiclete com Banana, Daniela Mercury and Ivete Sangalo (below). Another side of axé includes like Oz Bambaz and the vulgar Robyssão (his link is nsfw).

Sertanejo Universitário / Arrocha

A popular variation of the original sertanejo, Sertanejo Universitário is very popular amongst Brazilian coeds. It started catching on at university parties and now it’s everywhere.

Famous Sertanejo Universitário artists include Gusttavo Lima, Jorge & Mateus and Cristiano Araújo.

The biggest song in Brazil, and South America for that matter, a few years ago was a Sertanejo Universitario track called “Ai se eu te pego” by Michel Teló. They pretty much played it in repeat when I lived in Bolivia. It’s also one of the favorites of Brazilian’s star futebol player, Neymar…

Bossa Nova

When I first asked a Brazilian friend about Bossa Nova, she said “nobody listens to Bossa Nova.” Granted, it’s not on many people’s personal playlists, but Bossa Nova is still popular in Brazilian restaurants, bars and celebrations.

Made popular in the 1950s and 60s and famously Brazilian around the world, Bossa Nova is more Brazilian icon than daily staple.

Famous Brazilian Bossa Nova artists include Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Morais and Elis Regina. However, the most popular Brazilian Bossa Nova song is undoubtably “The Girl from Ipanema” by Vinicíus de Morais and Tom Jobim. Anything Sinatra covers is a win in my book.

Other great Brazilian artists to know: Tim Maia (Rock), Jorge Ben Jor (MPB), Seu Jorge Samba Rock), Gilberto Gil (MPB), Chico  Buarque (MPB) and Caetano Veloso (MPB).

MPB – Musica Popular Brasileira

What else? 

My Life in Rio – 3 Months in 30 Photos

The last 90 days have been an absolute blur. I touched down on January 18th and from that moment forward, Rio de Janeiro has completely sucked me in.

On a long bus ride to the airport this week to extend my tourist visa, I had some time to reflect on the first three months of living in Brazil.

I’ve gotten to know the city pretty well and my Portuguese is improving every day. I found a great place to live, a few solid friends and some quality basketball close by. My gym membership is free and so is my rental office. Things are moving along nicely.

The next chapter will focus on creating more substance and traveling deeper. The beaches are beautiful and Carnival was insane, but there’s a lot more to Brazil than that.

I’ll be traveling around the country over the next two months, as well as solidifying plans for my primary goal in Brazil – to work at the World Cup.

I can’t wait to reveal my plans for both of these adventures, but until they’re finalized, here’s a photo diary of my first three months in the ‘Marvelous City.’ It went a little something like this…

Day one, hour one, I dropped my bags off at the hostel and went straight to Ipanema beach.

Ipanema Beach - Rio De Janeiro Brazil

I met a great group of people at the hostel which included three Brazilians, a Chilean and a guy from Hawaii.

Baha Beach with the Brazilian Crew

During the day, I explored the city. Can you spot the loner?

Escadaria Selarón

And I snuck into expensive hotels to get better views.

Copacabana Beach Rio de Janeiro Brazil

At night, we went out and drank some Caipirinhas.

Caipirinhas in Rio de JaneiroThen I found an apartment with a good view (below) and great roommates.

Apartment in Rio de JaneiroWe ate food together.

Brazilian Food

I went running so I wouldn’t get fat.

Staying Fit in Rio de Janeiro

Then I found a gym that trumped all other gyms I have ever been to.

Staying Fit in Rio de Janeiro

There was a basketball court nearby where I shot threes and earned some street cred.

Basketball in Rio de Janeiro

From there I got invited to play in a league outside the city (that’s me playing D).

Basketball in Rio de JaneiroWith all the physical activity, I got addicted to suco shops and Acai. It left me no time for quality photoshopping.

Suco Shops in Rio de JaneiroAll while taking Portuguese classes for four hours a day.

Portuguese Classes in Rio de Janeiro

Then Carnival came and I forgot everything.

Brazil Carnival 2014

There were many street parties.

Carnaval do Rio de JaneiroI saw lots of boobs.

Brazil Carnival in Rio de JaneiroAnd got caught dancing with the queen of Carnival at a Vila Isabel Pre-Carnival Party.

Brazil Carnival in Rio de JaneiroAnd danced in the parade at Sambodrome. I was nervous. It was awesome.

Brazil Carnival in Rio de JaneiroAfter carnival, I spent a week recovering and watching saxy sunsets.

Ipanema Beach Sunset Rio de Janeiro BrazilThey are really nice here.

Ipanema Beach Sunset Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Ipanema is incredible but, sunset at the harbor wall in Urca might be my favorite.

Urca Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Here’s the view above Urca (bottom of photo) from Sugarloaf Mountain with Flamengo beach across the bay.

The View of Urca Sugarloaf Mountain

The semi-finals of the Carioca Cup came so I went to Maracana Stadium to watch my team (Fluminense) lose in the semi-finals against Vasco.

Maracana Stadium Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Then I watched Flamengo win the Basketball Championship and I thought about changing my team then they beat Vasco to win the Carioca Cup too.

Flamengo Basketball in Rio de Janeiro BrazilThen I went down to Centro Rio to get some culture at the National Library

National Library in Rio de Janeiroand got a nice view of the Teatro Municipal.

Teatro Municipal Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Then I got hungry and went to a market.

Street Market in Rio de JaneiroI took a nice photo of this papaya and then immediately smashed it on the ground. I dislike papayas.


Then I washed my hands and went to the office to get some work done.

Regus Office Rio de Janeiro Brazil And that brings us up-to-date as I sit here and publish this. Here’s to three more months!

Regus Office Rio de Janeiro BrazilMore T2T Photos:

A Portuguese Progress Report

Just like in high school, I’m learning to use a lot less tongue and focus more on the movements of my mouth. This is one the major pronunciation differences between Spanish and Portuguese, and I’m starting to pick it up.

I still have a heavy Spanish accent and often use Spanish to fill in for Portuguese words I don’t know, but Portuguese is slowly but surely taking over.

At the end of March, I finished a four week course at Casa do Caminho in Ipanema, which really helped with grammar,  pronunciation and a variety of verb tenses (past, future, conditional, etc).

Unlike the first Spanish to Portuguese class I took, these were English to Portuguese lessons that allowed me to break down and organize the language structure a bit more.

As you can see from the end of the video, I’ve been using four major resources to learn Portuguese until now but from here on out, I’ll be focusing primarily on speaking and improving my accent and vocabulary through conversational practice.

Hopefully by the time the World Cup comes along, my Portuguese will be good enough to celebrate like a townie!

Within the video I wanted to add a few basic phrases/questions that everyone should learn and understand before coming to Brazil for the World Cup, Olympics or otherwise.

These are the most used phrases and greetings that will help you get started learning Portuguese.

If you’re thinking about taking Portuguese classes here in Rio, I’m a big fan of Casa do Caminho because they have a very social approach to their operations, both in and around Rio.

They offer tours and activities for students every day of the week here in Rio, and outside the city, they help sponsor local children to “live their dreams” by providing them with travel and educational opportunities. That’s what it’s all about!

How to Extend Your Tourist Visa in Rio

How to Extend Your Tourist Visa in Rio de Janeiro Brazil

How to Extend Your Tourist Visa in Rio de Janeiro Brazil… wait patiently.

This post isn’t for everyone but for those who are in need of renewing (or extending) their tourist visa here in Rio de Janeiro, I hope this helps.

It has been almost 90 days since I arrived in Rio and that means it was time to take a trip to the international airport to extend my tourist visa with the Federal Police to keep my status here in Brazil legit.

I want to share some tips on how to make the experience as painless as possible.

The logistics of travel is a necessary evil, but it definitely gets easier (to deal with) the more you do it.

Visas and visa renewals/extensions are a major part of traveling and each country has their own little quirks and inefficiencies, but if you practice patience, persistence and a solid amount of stoicism, you’ll make it out alive.

There are many posts and forums out there that explain how to renew your tourist visa in Brazil but many of them are out or date or hard to digest.

Some of the tips below may also help with other Latin America visa requirements as well because many operate under similar cultural inefficacies.

Arrival Time

Pay attention to the hours of operation and the small print of hours of operation. Be aware that, like most Latin American countries, everything slows down (if not completely closes) during lunch (12-2pm) in Brazil.

Get to the airport as early as possible. The Federal Police opens at 8am and there is already a line at that time. I arrived at 9am without everything complete and that’s what took me all day.

If you arrive at 7am with all the requirements I list below, you should be done by 10am at the latest (hopefully).

Here Are the 6 Things You Absolutely Need to Renew Your Visa in Brazil:

1. Passport – This is an easy one; don’t forget the most important part of this process.

2. Entry Card – Card you received at customs/immigration when you arrived. They actually didn’t ask me for this but many say it is required.

3. Return Flight Information [print] – You must show that you will be leaving the country within the allotted time of your tourist visa.

My flight is scheduled for August (over the 180 day limit), which was overlooked when I first got my Visa in New York, but this time they caught me. To amend the situation, I went down to an Internet café on the first floor of the airport and “purchased” the cheapest bus ticket possible out of the country (from and to two border cities) for July (88 days into my tourist visa). I then returned with the receipt of that purchase. This works for many locations around the world.

4. Proof of Income [print] – You have to print out an income statement from a credit or debit card and show them you have money to cover your stay. Many articles I read said that you have to prove you have a valid credit card so I thought that meant I just had to bring a credit card. Nope. Print it out.

5. Complete Extended Stay Application [print] – You need to fill in a form called Requerimento de prorrogação de estada. This form asks only for parents names, contact information, date of birth, nationality etc. On this form the data “Cartão de entrada/saida (sequential)” is the number on the “Arrival/Departure Card”

DON’T sign it until you get to the Federal Police office.

6. Visa Tax Form and Payment [print] – The Guia de Recolhimento da União, form has drop-down boxes to choose the appropriate Federal Police office, the service required, full name of parents and address. Here are the steps:

  • Dropdown Select Tax Office (Unidade Arrecadadora):
    • Curitiba: PR (018-3): Superintendência Regional no Estado do Paraná
    • Florianópolis: SC (026-4): Superintendência Regional no Estado de Santa Catarina
    • Rio de Janeiro: RJ (021-3): Superintendência Regional no Estado do Rio de Janeiro
  • Enter Code(Código da Receita) STN type 140090. It refers to visa extension “Pedido de Prorrogacao de Prazo de Estada”
  • Bank – Once complete, you will receive a printable receipt. Take that to any bank and make payment of R$67. Take the receipt and payment receipt with you to the Federal Police office. There are banks at the airport but they don’t open until 10am.

Federal Police office locations:

  • Curitiba: R. Profa. Sandália Manzon, 210 – Santa Cândida
  • Florianópolis: Rua Paschoal Apóstolo Pítsica, 4744 – Agronômica
  • Rio de Janeiro: GIG International airport i- foreigners services at the Policia Federal.

Thank you to brazilianexperience.com.br for most of this information. The rest I learned and organized after the tourist visa renewal.

*This information is for U.S. Citizens only, please check with your countries embassy for any additional information need to extend your tourist visa. 

**Budget Tip – Make sure you take the blue 2018 bus for $13.50 instead of paying a ridiculous amount for a taxi to and from the airport.

Rio Favorites – Sugarloaf Mountain

A trip to Rio de Janeiro isn’t complete without a visit to the world famous Sugarloaf Mountain. Located in the quiet neighborhood of Urca, this iconic mini-mountain is home to some of the most beautiful views in all of Rio.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro - Sugarloaf Mountain

There are actually two levels, Morro da Urca (Urca Hill) and Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), and they are connected by teleferico (gondola/air tram), which run up and down about every twenty minutes during working hours.

The first level is free if you feel like hiking or climbing, but to reach the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain; you have to pay for a ticket, and it’s well worth it.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro - Sugarloaf Mountain - Urca Hill

At the time of this post (April 2014), the cost for a ticket is R$62 for adults, R$31 for 6-21 year olds and free for children under six. 

*A tip for those backpacking 21-35ish year olds is to bring a student (photo) ID with you and you can get the R$31 rate.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro - Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro

If possible, I highly recommend going on a weekday when there is a much smaller crowd, and even better, go right before sunset, when there is even less people for some reason.

Marmoset in Rio de Janeiro

Local Sugarloaf residents came out to greet me. This is the first marmoset I’ve ever seen in the wild.

I went on Monday at 4:30pm in order to reach the top before sunset and as you can see from the photos and video, the view and lighting is absolutely incredible!

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro - Sugarloaf Mountain

The view of Urca (below), Flamengo beach, Centro Rio (left) and Niteroi (top right) from Sugarloaf Mountain

Buy a few beers from the mountaintop snack shop and give yourself at least an hour to soak in all the vistas and just relax while the city lights come alive…

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro - Sugarloaf Mountain

Some of the most notable points of interest from Sugarloaf mountain are Ipanema and Copacabana beach, Botafogo beach, Christ the Redeemer, Flamengo beach, Centro Rio, Urca, Praia Vermelha and Niteroi.

Sugarloaf Mountain Hours:

  • Ticket Office: 8AM – 7:50PM
  • First Tram: 8:10AM
  • Last Tram (from top): 8:40PM
  • Last Tram (from Urca Hill): 9:00PM