Composer of hundreds of valses, maracatus, canções, sambas-canção, serenatas, modinhas, choros, baiões, polkas, marching musics, masses, operettas, musics for cinema and theater, and especially frevos, Capiba is a legend of the northeast and certainly the most important composer of this region. At eight, Capiba was already playing the horn and reading music. Son of the conductor Severino Atanásio de Sousa Barbosa, Capiba, like his 12 siblings, played in his father's band. The training was severe and extenuating. Always moving from town to town, always playing, the family settled in Campina Grande (Paraíba) where Capiba, at 16, was forced by his father to substitute for Capiba's youngest sister, Josefa, as a pianist, since she was going to marry and the strict moral habits at the time impeded her from continuing to be a professional. Overcoming his natural aversion to the instrument, he soon became proficient enough to play competently at the cinema and to take the position opened in the Jazz Band Campinense, led by his brother Tantão. At the same time, Capiba continued to devote himself to soccer, his old passion. And also by that time came his first important concert, accompanying the Italian tenor Brillantini at a gala night at the Mayoralty. But in 1924, Capiba's father determined that Capiba should abandon music and soccer and to go to João Pessoa (Paraíba) to study; the next year, he was already playing at the Cine Rio Branco (piano) and at the América (soccer). In 1926, his song "Mulher Sem Coração" shook off the city's streets during the Carnaval; the next year was the turn of "Eu Sou Doido Por Você"; in 1928, "Quem Tem Amor Tem Ciúmes"; and in 1929, "Aluga-se Um Coração." In that period he formed his own band, Jazz Independência, and won a contest with the tango "Flor das Ingratas," which also had appreciable popularity. In 1930, Capiba returned to Campina Grande, already independent financially, which gave him the possibility of dedicating himself to music against his father's will. Inspired by his previous success in a contest, he discovered that the satiric magazine O Malho and the prestigious Casa Edison (Odeon) were promoting a contest of marches and sambas for the Carnival of 1930. Participating in the contest with his samba "Não Quero Mais" (lyrics by João dos Santos Coelho), signed under the pseudonyms Pé de Pato/Joca da Beleza (as requested by the contest's organizers), the song won fourth place and was recorded by Francisco Alves before they knew about it. The prize was given to the first one who requested it, and the song remained credited to the pseudonyms. In the same year, Capiba moved to Recife to work at the Banco do Brasil, where he would retire from decades later.
On November 11, 1931, Capiba's new band, the Jazz Band Acadêmica, opened at a graduating ball, for which he had written a song that would be always remembered: the "Valsa Verde" (with Ferreira dos Santos). The orchestra (of which Capiba was the pianist and conductor) became a success. They were even invited to play in other neighboring states (Pará, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Maranhão). In 1932, his maracatu "É de Tororó" (with Ascenso Ferreira) became a success and was included in a revue by Jardel Jércolis that toured Brazil, Spain, and Portugal. In 1933, performed by the Jazz Band Acadêmica in Rio, the song became a carnival hit. In that period, Carmen Miranda was to record Capiba's frevo "Tenho Uma Coisa Para Lhe Dizer" but had to interrupt the endeavor due to her season in Argentina. Capiba's first frevo complete with lyrics, "É De Amargar," was written in 1934 as a tribute to his brother Sebastião, a clarinetist who died precociously at 39. Immediately successful in Recife, it won the contest promoted by the Diário de Pernambuco, was introduced in Alda Garrido's repertory, and, being recorded by Mário Reis, achieved national recognition. It was the beginning of Capiba's national career as a composer of carnival music. In the same year, Capiba left the Acadêmica, due to internal disagreements. The band continued to exist until 1965, while Capiba took the direction of the Bando Acadêmico do Recife. The band went so well that it was abandoned by Capiba -- after a laudatory newspaper review that brought bitter letters by competitors. But Capiba continued to compose and to play, and his frevo-canção "Manda Essa Tristeza Embora" was recorded by Araci de Almeida, his "Vou Cair no Frevo" by Almirante, and his frevo-canção "Tenho Uma Coisa Para Lhe Dizer" by Leda Baltar, all in 1935. In 1938 he concluded his law studies and had "Júlia" recorded by Francisco Alves and "Casinha Pequenina" by Carlos Galhardo. In the next year, Ciro Monteiro recorded "Quero Essa" and "Gosto De Te Ver Cantando" and, in 1941, "Linda Flor da Madrugada." "Maria Betânia," his biggest hit, was recorded by Nelson Gonçalves in 1944, achieving national success (the homonymous singer was christened after this song under biblical influences). The song has been re-recorded more than ten times since then.
Capiba also actively participated in the Teatro de Estudantes de Pernambuco (founded by Ariano Suassuna and Hermilo Borba Filho), writing music for its plays. In 1949, Capiba became friends with the important classical composer Guerra-Peixe, having also studied with him. Under this inspiration, Capiba wrote several classical pieces (concerts, trio, and suite). His concert for flute was executed by Esteban Estter in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and France. In 1950, Capiba wrote the "Maracatu Elefante," later recorded in France. He also had success when putting music to poetry, like in "A Mesma Rosa Amarela" (1960), poem by Carlos Penna Filho, which was recorded by Maysa and became incorporated in the bossa nova repertory. In 1963 he put music to Vinícius de Moraes' "Soneto da Fidelidade."
Capiba marked his presence at the historic festivals as well, with his "Canção do Negro Amor" (with Ariano Suassuna) in the fourth place at the I FIC (International Song Festival), also having "Canção do Amor Que Não Vem" and "Festa de Cores" place. "São Do Norte Os Que Vêm" (also with Suassuna) won the fifth place and a gold medal at the II FIC. His participation in the Armorial Movement of the 1970s yielded, along with several important pieces, the mass "A Grande Missa Armorial." He continued to compose frevos for the Carnival in Recife (completing 40 consecutive years of participation), and, in the Carnival of 1997, he was paid tribute in that city.