It was in this world that Joseph Antonio Emidy was, as a child, taken into slavery and brought to Brazil. Brazil was Portugal's new land of promise and for two centuries successive waves of captives from Africa created the predominantly African population of modern Brazil. Culturally Brazil was an assimilation of various cultural influences including Portugal, Africa and the traditions of indigenous peoples. Music was a large part of the culture so it is probable that he already played the violin long before he arrived in Portugal during his late teens.
By 1795 Joseph Emidy was established in one of the Lisbon Opera Theatres as a leading violinist and caught the attention of a British Naval officer by the name of Captain Edward Pellew. Pellew's ship, HMS Indefatigable was docked in the Portuguese Tagus for repairs to damage sustained during engagement with Napoleonâ's naval forces. At the end of one of Emidy's performances, Pellew had some of his men pressgang him at the back door of the Theatre to become a fiddler for his ship's crew.