Sinhô was a key figure in Brazilian popular music, particularly in the Carioca samba. One of the historic musicians -- also including Pixinguinha, his brother China, Donga, and others -- united around Tia Ciata's house, a focal point of cultural resistance and affirmation, Sinhô initiated the process of rupture with the folkloric creation of samba, proposing an urban, professional approach which would yield a conflict with the other historic composers. He was also the creator of more than 100 recorded compositions, including the first recorded samba, "Pelo Telefone," which was recorded by Donga in 1917 as its only composer but which was, in fact, a collective creation by the musicians of Tia Ciata's house. Sinhô's compositions ranged from afro-baiano character to sertaneja songs, consisting mainly of satiric urban chronicles.
Starting very early in the study of flute, he also learned the piano and the violão (acoustic guitar), quickly becoming a noted musician and even being invited for the historic reception for Brazilian aviator Santos Dumont on his returning from the Paris triumph, in September 7, 1903. A co-founder of the Carnaval ranch Ameno Resedá, in 1910 he was already a professional musician, playing in several ballrooms. As a pianist for Kananga do Japão, a most renowned Carnaval club, he began to be recognized as a talented musician. His first compositions to become known by this time were 1917's "Madrugada," "Marcha no. 1," marcha-rancho "Resposta à Inveja," and polca "Kananga do Japão," which would be included in the soundtrack of the recent TV series by the same name, being also recorded by virtuose flutist Altamiro Carrilho. He was also a sheet music demonstrator for several publishing houses such as Casa Beethoven. In 1918 he formed a group called Quem são eles? (Who are them?) (flute, violão, cavaquinho, trombone, violin, ganzá, pandeiro and reco-reco) and composed the samba "Quem são eles?," with both ironizing rival sambistas. The other composers of the Tia Ciata's house and the group of the baianos, led by Hilário Jovino Ferreira, took it as a provocation and this episode marked the separation of folklore and urbanization of samba in Rio de Janeiro. Those composers created a flood of counter-attacks, such as "Fica Calmo Que Aparece" (Donga), "Não és Tão Falado Assim" (Hilário Jovino Ferreira) and "Já te Digo" (Pixinguinha/China). So Sinhô responded with 1919's "Três Macacos No Beco" (Three monkeys at the alley), an allusion to Pixinguinha, Donga, and China.
In 1920, Francisco Alves, one of the most successful Brazilian singers, made his debut in the recordings with "Fala, Meu Louro" (a satire to Brazilian writer and politician Rui Barbosa) and "O Pé De Anjo" (ironizing China's big feet), both being big hits in the Carnaval of 1920. Authors Cardoso de Meneses and Carlos Bittencourt wrote the play O pé de anjo, exploring the immense popularity of the song. The play opened in 1920 at the Teatro São José, brought prominence to Sinhô in the scene of musical theater, which opened to him the doors of a new market, the medium-classed frequenters of this medium. He soon wrote the play Segundo clichê (with Procópio Ferreira), which opened in August 1921 at the Teatro Recreio. In that year during Artur Bernardes' (ironically nicknamed "Rolinha" by the people) presidency, he launched the satiric march "Fala Baixo," criticizing the censorship and mentioning "Rolinha" in the lyrics. The police went after him, and he had to hide at his mother's.
At this time he was already very popular, and in the frequent parties at the streets prior to Carnaval (called "batalha de confetes"), he'd perform his compositions on a piano mounted over a bandstand especially built for him. In 1922 his "Macumba Gegê" was recorded by the group Escola 13 for Odeon and became a big hit in next year's Carnaval, only to be censored by the Estado Novo government (Gegê was also the nickname under which dictator Getúlio Vargas became popularly known). "Mal de Amor" was recorded little after by Araci Cortes through Brunswick but was only released in 1931 after his death. 1927 would be a fertile year for him, when he composed "Ora Vejam Só" and "A Favela Vai Abaixo," also being crowned O Rei do Samba (The King of Samba) in the Noite Luso-Brasileira at the Teatro República. His samba, "Não Quero Saber Mais Dela," was presented in the show Paulista de Macaé and recorded by Francisco Alves and Rosa Negra for Odeon. Sinhô had a controverted character and didn't mind taking pieces of other writers' works to create his own material. Heitor dos Prazeres accused him of plagiarism several times, claiming that Sinhô's "Ora Vejam Só," "Gosto Que Me Enrosco," "Olha Ele, Cuidado," and "Rei Dos Meus Sambas" were taken from his own compositions. Sinhô was widely accepted by the influential bourgeoisie, but never abandoned the terreiro de macumba of the Príncipe dos Alufás (Prince of the Alufás) Assumano (Henrique Assumano Mina do Brasil). Every composition of his had to be previously presented to Assumano prior to its publication.
In 1928 he became Mário Reis' teacher of violão. Delighted by Reis' voice, he introduced him to the recording business, successfully convincing Odeon to record him. With his first 78rpm album, Reis recorded Sinhô's "Que Vale a Nota Sem o Carinho da Mulher?" and "Carinhos de Vovô." Reis would be Sinhô's most frequent interpreter, including his two biggest hits, "Jura" (which would also be recorded by Araci Cortes still in 1928) and "Gosto Que Me Enrosco" (with Heitor dos Prazeres). Also in 1928, the beautiful samba "Amar a Uma Só Mulher (recorded by Francisco Alves for Odeon) was included in the play Língua de Sogra. "Burucuntum," a samba recorded in 1930 by Carmem Miranda (Victor 33.259-B), has in the composer credits J. Curanji, Sinhô's pseudonym. Miranda was nobody then.
In 1929 he performed at the Teatro Municipal de São Paulo." In this time he was already suffering from tuberculosis, but continued to write intensively. Going for a recording session at August 4, 1930, he took the ferry boat which connected Ilha do Governador, where he was living, to the city of Rio. He'd didn't arrive alive. Seized by a fulminating hemorrhage, he died right there. His burial service attracted the varied people of his relations, from the low-life prostitutes and malandros to the higher authorities, artists, and intellectuals of Rio, along with his fans. The prostitute Nair, his last mistress, for some reason burned all he had written and sold for peanuts a custom-made violão, presented to him by Viúva Guerreiro, owner of the publishing house Viúva Guerreiro, which published several compositions of his. Singer Clara Sandroni paid tribute to him in a show and a CD recorded with Marcos Sacramento and Lira Carioca for Kuarup in 1997.