One of the inventors of Carioca samba, Caninha shared with Sinhô the Rei do Samba (King of Samba), the honor of having written the biggest carnival hits of the decade of 1920. Born into a poor family and an orphan at eight, Caninha had to work hard from an early age. Selling cane sugar (cana) for people at the Central do Brasil railroad station, he got his nickname. He began to play the cavaquinho early on and around 1900, he was already into the samba manifestations developed at Tia Dadá's and Tia Ciata's houses, popular redoubts of sambistas and cultural activists. The first rancho (Carnaval group) of Rio, Dois de Ouro, later Reis de Ouro, was co-founded by him and João Câncio. He also joined Balão de Rosa and Rosa Branca, founded Recanto das Fadas and União dos Amores, and was director of Recreio das Flores. At that time, he was already a proficient cavaquinista, accompanying Marinho que Toca, nicknamed for his musical virtuosity. Caninha began to compose while very young, but his first hit was "Gripe Espanhola." It was released, as was habitual, at one of the religious commemorations around which carnival developed, in this case, Festa da Penha (1918). He joined several Carnaval groups, such as Grupo de Caxangá (under the pseudonym Mané do Riachão), Grupo Cidade Nova (which also had Pixinguinha, on flute), and group Sou Brasileiro (with Benedito Lacerda on flute). In 1919, he wrote the tango "O Kaiser em Fuga" and the samba "Até Parece Coisa Feita." In 1920, his samba "Quem Vem Atrás Fecha a Porta" was a big hit and he also wrote "Ninguém Escapa ao Feitiço" that year. He recorded for the first time in 1921, "Essa Nega Qué me Dá," with great success. "Que Vizinha Danada" is the title of two other compositions of that year, a samba and a tango. At this point, the Festas da Penha in October, received one of the journalist and samba enthusiast Vagalume's contributions: the institution of a contest. Caninha, urged by Vagalume, was unconquered in all of those competitions. In 1922, with the ragtime marcha "Me Sinto Mal," he defeated Sinhô at the Festa da Penha's contest. His presentation was totally improvised as he was only watching the contest when was pressed by Vagalume. Sinhô had a strong group with trombones, pandeiros, violões, clarinets, etc. Caninha gathered six musicians (only cavaquinistas and violonistas) on the spot, made them wear newspaper caps (the "uniform" was a requisite) and had the victory awarded by the jury. In 1923, he participated in the Carnaval contest with the maxixe "Não é Conversa," the marcha "Meu Amor Qué me Batê," and the samba "Não se Ganha Pra Comer." In 1927, the newspaper Correio da Manhã instituted a contest at which Caninha won with "Rosinha." In 1933, when some people maliciously pretended him to be exhausted, he won the official Carnaval contest with "É Batucada" (with Horácio Dantas, under the pseudonym of Visconde de Bicoíba), a samba which was recorded by Moreira da Silva (for Columbia), accompanied by Benedito Lacerda's regional, Gente do Morro. The contest had a favorite, the Orquestra Príncipe da Melodia, conducted by maestro Guilherme Pereira, featuring Russo do Pandeiro (nicknamed Russinho, the magic pandeiro). Also, because of "É Batucada," the mayor of Rio thankfully granted him with a diploma of sambista. He continued to compose, but being a bureaucrat (retiring in 1945), he preferred to keep a low profile far from the furious competition of the commercial music business. He was one of the participants of the Festival da Velha Guarda (Old Guard Festival), organized by Almirante in 1954 around the old figures of Brazilian popular music who were still alive. In 1958, he was news again, having composed a marcha, "Meu Brasil," to commemorate Brazil's victory at the World Cup eight days before the final match.
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