Sivuca, the white-maned accordionist, composer and arranger known for his work with South African singer Miriam Makeba and others, died Thursday of throat cancer at a hospital in his home state of Paraiba, Brazil. He was 76.
Born Severino Dias de Oliveira, Sivuca was credited with arranging Makeba’s most famous recording, “Pata Pata.” During his 50-year career, he played with a wide range of musical artists around the world, including Harry Belafonte, Toots Thielmans, Airto Moreira and Hermeto Pascoal.
A master of the accordion-driven forro style of Brazil’s northeast, he won a Latin Grammy in 2005 with accordionist Oswaldinho in the Brazilian roots category.
Born on the family farm in northern Brazil, Sivuca was an albino whose need to stay out of the sun allowed him to avoid farm chores and devote more time to music. He began playing the accordion at fairs and parties when he was 9 and by 15 was performing on radio programs. In 1950 he made his first recording, which included the hit “Adeus Maria Fulo.”
He lived in Rio de Janeiro for many years before moving to Lisbon, Paris and New York City. He joined Makeba’s group as a guitarist in the early 1960s and eventually toured the world with her.