The musician and composer Francisco Soares de Araújo, known as Canhoto da Paraíba (literally translated as ‘Lefty from Paraíba’), was born into a family of musicians – a clarinettist grandfather, a father who played guitar, brothers (nine) who turned to other instruments – on May 19 1928, in the town of Princesa Isabel, in the semi-arid region of Paraíba.
Canhoto da Paraíba is considered by Brazilian musical exponents – Pixinguinha, Luperce Miranda, Dilermando Reis, Jacob do Bandolim, Radamés Gnatalli, Paulinho da Viola, and others – to be a top class guitarist, and this recognition is due to his talent and his technique of playing the guitar in a style contrary to the conventional school of guitar: left-handed, without having to invert the strings. He adopted this technique when he was aged 12. His instrument was shared with his brothers and, because of this, he couldn’t restring it so that only left-handers could play it. In this way he observed his father playing and went on to learn.
The curious thing is that to write he uses his right hand; to kick a ball, his right foot. But to carry out any other task he uses his left hand, including playing the guitar, cavaquinho (similar to a ukulele) and mandolin.
His musical rise began 1948, when he travelled to Recife to participate on Rádio Clube de Pernambuco programme. In 1953, he signed a contract with a radio station in Paraíba. At the time, he’d already formed a musical group. In 1958, he moved to Recife and the following year, on a tour of Northeast Brazilian musicians, went to Rio de Janeiro. There he participated in a party at the famous house of Jacob do Bandolim (‘Mandolin Jacob’), where the cream of Rio de Janeiro’s choro community was present. Canhoto da Paraíba played guitar masterfully and won the enthusiasm and admiration of all.
Composer of over 80 songs, Canhoto da Paraíba was already playing shows with big names of Brazilian popular music and recording some albums: Único Amor (Only Love) (1968) and Um violão direito nas mãos do Canhoto (A Right-handed Guitar in Lefty’s Hands) (1974), which was released by the now-defunct label Rozemblit; Canhoto da Paraíba com mais de mil (Canhoto da Paraíba with Over a Thousand) (also known as Violão brasileiro tocado pelo avesso, or Brazilian Guitar Played Backwards) produced by Paulinho da Viola for Discos Marcus Pereira; Fantasia nordestina volume dois (North-eastern Fantasy Volume Two) (1990), independently produced by Geraldino Magalhães and Lula Queiroga; Pisando na brasa (Stepping on the Coals) (1990), his final solo work, recorded by Kuarup; and, in 1993, Instrumental no CCBB: Canhoto da Paraíba e Zimbo Trio (Instrumental at CCBB: Canhoto da Paraíba and Zimbo Trio), was released by the label Tom Brasil.
In 1998, Canhoto da Paraíba suffered a brain ischemia which paralysed his left arm and has prevented him from playing to this day. In May this year, aware of his serious situation, in honour of him and to help with his medical expenses and for intensive treatments, many of the biggest names from choro and samba performed a benefit concert at Teatro Guararapes, Recife.
Canhoto da Paraíba has lived in Recife since 1958 and, currently, lives with his daughters, from two marriages, in the suburb of Maranguape I, in the city of Paulista, Pernambuco.
Francisco Soares de Araújo, o Canhoto da Paraíba, was officially considered one of the Living Patrimonies of Pernambuco through the State Law nº 12.196 of 2 May 2002.
He died in Recife, on 24 April 2008.
Recife, 29 May 2006.
(Updated on 14 September 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.
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Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Canhoto da Paraíba. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescola/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.