Having as his grandfather the master accordionist Avelino, Xangai learned how to sing in the rough style of the vaqueiros (cowboys) and cantadores (minstrels) of his region. Having these influences of the hinterland music of Bahia always conspicuous in his music, through originals and adaptations of the Northeastern folklore, Xangai always produced non-commercial projects that have also involved, since the 1980s, classical music collaborators such as Arthur Moreira Lima and Turíbio Santos. In 1973, Xangai moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he had his first album released through CBS, Acontecimento, in 1976. All of his subsequent albums were released by small or independent labels.
Four years later, he realized with Elomar, Arthur Moreira Lima and others Parceria Malunga, where different regional accents merged with Lima's world-class virtuosity yielding a unusual release. In 1984, Xangai did a memorable show at the Castro Alves Theater (Salvador, Bahia), accompanied by Elomar, Geraldo Azevedo, and Vital Farias. The show was recorded live and released as Cantoria 1 and Cantoria 2. In 1988, Xangai shared with Elomar, Turíbio Santos, and João Omar the album Concerto Sertanez. With Renato Teixeira, Xangai recorded the live album Aguaterra in 1996. In the next year, Xangai won the Sharp prize with Cantoria de Festa, awarded as the Best Album of the Year. Other artists who have participated on Xangai's albums are Vital Farias, Cátia de França, Pedro Osmar, Cumeno Cum Cuentro, Jacques Morelenbaum, and Hélio Contreras.