Born in the Amazonian region of Pará in 1938, Onete is a mix of native Indian from her mother’s side and African from her father. She first started to sing after a chance riverside encounter: “I was washing clothes by the river and one day I saw a dolphin and sung for him. The next day I sang again, and two dolphins came, then a whole family!”.
She became an ardent researcher of the rhythms, dances and traditions of the Amazon’s indigenous and black people, which inspired her to begin composing songs herself. Unable to sing at home, she began to incorporate her compositions in her work as a history teacher, using her songs to explain the history of the region to her students: “Nowadays indigenous people can be proud of their heritage but years ago this wasn’t the case.”