Anibal Augusto Sardinha, better known as Garôto, (The Kid), was born from Portuguese immigrants Antônio Augusto Sardinha and Adosinda dos Anjos Sardinha in downtown São Paulo on June 28 1915. Who could guess that this Brazilian musician would change history and in a few short years he would become one of the most brilliant acoustic guitarists/composers ever.
Garôto started working very early. At age eleven, he was a helper in a music store in Brás (a neighborhood on São Paulo’s East Side). This same year he got his first instrument, a Banjo, as a gift from his brother. One can say that on that day, Garôto started his career. A few months later, he was playing in a group, the Brothers Armani Regional, and they started to call him O Moleque do Banjo. (The Banjo Kid).
In an interview in the Correio Paulistano newspaper on December 1949, Garoto recalls, “In 1929 at the Palácio das Industrias (The Industrial Palace), I had my first opportunity, playing with Canhoto, Zezinho and Mota, for General Motors programs. We were a big group. Long after that we formed an orchestral group, with uniform, black little ties and flannel trousers, and after that I started to play alone, and with the late Pinheirinho Barreto and Aluisio Silva we formed a new group. That is when we recorded Zombando da Morte, (Making fun of Meath), a samba wich became very popular.”
In 1927, the electric record player arrived in Brazil and Garôto made his first recording sessions in 1929 with Paraguassu (then his tutor). From there on, Garôto started to work intensively, playing all over the State of São Paulo in many different engagements. Yet São Paulo was too unknown for his talent, and he left to Rio de Janeiro in 1938 with the firm intention to give new directions to his career. He did not imagine that his stay in Rio would be so short and intense.
He started to work at the Mayrink Veiga Radio Station, that had a cast of big stars, including Carmen Miranda and Laurindo de Almeida. With Laurindo, they formed the duo of syncopated rhythms and the group Cordas Quentes (Hot Strings). The duo took part in several recording sessions for Henricão, Carmen Costa, Jararaca e Zé Formiga, Alvarenga e Ranchinho, Dorival Caymmi, Ary Barroso and Carmen Miranda, among others.
By the end of 1939 he moved to America!
“I hope you liked the idea of coming here, and accept my invitation, this land is the best in the world, only being here to believe. We are anxious for your coming, me and the guys” said Carmen.
He accepted Carmen’s invitation and on October 18, 1939 he embarked the ship from Uruguay to the United States, he soon gained the nickname “The man of golden fingers” given originally by organist Jesse Crawford. While Carmen attracted a large audience for herself, an audience made of big names of the jazz scene marveled by this young modern and virtuosic musician who came from a distant land.
He did not simply play for Carmen. His ability on the instrument and personal style while playing the Marchas and Sambas Carmen was a projection of himself. Duke Ellington and Art Tatum were among the regulars in the audience. When Carmen’s shows ended, Garôto used to play by himself, to an audience keen to listen to the new ways this young man played.
After eight months working for Carmen, in several American cities, Broadway, movies and even playing for Presidend Roosevelt at the White House, Garôto came back to Rio, to start the longest journey of his life, one that lasted fifteen years.
In the last 15 years of his life, (Garôto died at age 39 on May 3, 1955), he worked very hard, playing in recording sessions, doing concerts, and composing some of the most wonderful Brazilian songs ever heard, some selling over a million copies. With his way of playing the Samba and Chôro on guitar and writing music, Garôto was the man who gave new directions to Brazilian Popular Music, influencing some of the next generation of great Brazilian artists and showing them the path to what a few years later was called the Bossa Nova.
Waldemar Henrique, who lived and understood the era, said: “It was not a transformation. It was a long period of gestation, consious, lucid composers who were looking for modernity, breaking rules, influences, fighting against poverty and prejudice. Since Pixinguinha (Carinhoso), Ary Barroso (Faceira) Dorival Caymmi (Dora), Garôto (Duas Contas), Dolores Duran (Por causa de você), the “thing” was being created, the flower blossoing toward the magnificent garden we enjoy today. The true master, the modest guide, the strong figure who prepare the approach of the Bossa Nova was Garôto.”
Surrounding Garôto were Radames gnatali, Chiquinho and some talented youngsters who were hustling day and night; Donato, João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, Ed Lincoln, Vandre, Luis Bonfá, Luiz Eça and Dolores Duran. Later Tom Jobim got together with two excelent lyricists, Ismael Neto, from Pará, and Vinicius de Moraes, taking Brazilian Music to new levels that Garôto would not live to see.