13 December 1912, Caicara, Pernambuco, Brazil, d. 2 August 1989, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. The lively dance music of north-east Brazil known as forró was all around Gonzaga during his childhood. He became adept at this fierce and sometimes raw musical form, which has at its core the instrumentation of accordion and percussion, the latter being played chiefly on the zambubma, which is a bass drum, and the triangle. While still in his teens, Gonzaga became adept on accordion and zambubma, taking instruction from his father, Januário Jose Dos Santos. He developed his musical skills during the 30s, a decade he spent mainly in the Brazilian army wherein he played in military bands. At the end of the decade Gonzaga settled in Rio De Janeiro, playing on street corners and in bars. He formed musical alliances with other musicians from his region of the country and they began performing forró in the citys music venues. He recorded from the early 40s, gaining in popularity as the nation took to the excitement of the fast-paced forró and its kindred baião.
Gonzaga appeared in the Hollywood film Nancy Goes To Rio (1950), which starred Ann Sothern and Jane Powell and featured Carmen Miranda. In the film, Miranda performed his immensely popular song Asa Branca. Later in his career, Gonzaga toured Europe but it was in Brazil that he made his biggest mark, continuing to delight audiences until the end of his life. Apart from his own many albums, Gonzaga recorded with others, including his accordionist son, Gonzaguinha.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.