António Domingos Abreu Rocha was born in Belém (Lisbon), on the 20 June 1938. After finishing primary school, he left school because he needed to find a job and help the family income.
At only 13, in 1951, he won a fado contest organised by newspaper Ecos de Portugal. He was however changing his voice and only resumed singing a few years later, at a restaurant in Cova da Piedade, called Riba-Mar. In that restaurant his voice was heard by the Conde de Sobral who very much enjoyed his performances and introduced him to fado singer Deolinda Rodrigues. She sponsored his career and took him to Lisbon, to Retiro Andaluz, who immediately hired him. He made his professional debut in 1956. At that time he was employed at a hardware store, but his continued success enabled him to follow his artistic career.
In the same year of his professional debut his recorded television programmes and joined Emissora Nacional. He was then invited to record his first EP, with four tracks, for publisher Fonomate.
In 1959, in a contest promoted by Café Luso, he was elected King of “Fado Menor”, one of the classic modes of traditional fado – which he still sings like nobody else. By that time António Rocha already played an outstanding role in national music. His popularity was fully proved in 1967, with his election as King of Fado, in a voting made by the readers of magazine “Plateia”. On that occasion poet Carlos Conde published a poem dedicated to António Rocha, evidencing his popularity and his performing qualities as singer: “Porque encanta quando canta, O António Rocha parece Que tem sempre na garganta A ternura de uma prece! Põe na voz tal melodia E um sabor tão requintado Que perfuma de magia As próprias rimas do fado! Conseguiu ter um reinado, Um trono alto, uma grei; - o Rocha tem o seu fado, O fado tem o seu Rei!”
He had many contracts to sing at the best fado houses in Lisbon and in shows all over Portugal, performing at restaurants and casinos. He also travelled abroad, namely to the United States of America.
He also performed frequently on radio and television. For some time António Rocha had his own radio show, in which he answered questions about Fado asked by the general public. In recent decades he continued to excel in casts of the Lisbon fado houses and has worked for some years at Faia. But his performances are not restricted to Portugal. He has been often invited to sing at world music festivals in countries such as the USA, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Aware of the importance of having his own repertoire, he soon created his individual repertoire and is the author of most poems he sings, as well as some musical scores. António Rocha has performed at virtually all fado houses in Lisbon. Special reference should be made to his lengthy stays at Solar da Hermínia, Timpanas and O Faia, where he currently sings.
He presented his shows in innumerable restaurants and casinos in Portugal, as well as in many venues abroad.
In recent years reference should be made to his presence at the following shows: - Portuguese Week at Rome, in 1988; - Long Nights, in the framework of Lisboa 94 – European Cultural Capital; - Netherlands, on invitation of maestro Paul Van Nevel, in 1994; - Belgium, on invitation of maestro Paul Van Nevel, in 1995; - France, on invitation of maestro Paul Van Nevel, in 1996; - Music World Festival in Barcelona, in 1997; - Seven shows during EXPO’ 98; - Brussels Music Festival, in 1998; - Tour to several cities in France and Belgium, in 1999; - Encontros en la Musica, at Tenerife, in 2000; - Festival des Bucoliques du Pays de Racan, in France (2000); - I and II Festivals of Music and Harbours, in Lisbon, in 2000 and 2001 - XXIII Festival Sabandeño, in 2001; - Shows in the framework of Porto – Cultural Capital, 2001; - Popular Poets, CCB, Festas de Lisboa 2004.
The most recent work recorded by António Rocha, “Silêncio, Ternura e Fado”, was published by label Ovação in 2004. Of its 12 tracks, 11 are poems by the fado singer. He is a founding member of APAF (Portuguese Association of Friends of Fado). From 2001 to 2004 he taught at the Rehearsing Department for Fado Singers, at the Escola de Guitarra Portuguesa of Museu do Fado.