Text by Claudio Tavares, photos of Pierre Verger.
Highlights the roda of M Juvenal, student of the deceased M Samuel Querido de Deus, and his students: Reginaldo, João Evangelista and Antônio.
Besides this describes different kicks and movements of capoeira of the time.
The photos were taken by Verger in 1947 (see the source)
The place of M Juvenal's roda (1947)
„CAPOEIRA KILLS ONE!“
Magazine O Cruzeiro
Text by CLÁUDIO TUIUTI TAVARES * Photos by PIERRE VERGER
THE CITY OF SALVADOR – When I tell to Juvenal Hermenegildo da Cruz about my wish to write a report about capoeira, highlighting his figure as mestre of Angola, the athletic and capable man says openly:
– „No way! What king am I in Bahia, mestre of capoeira!?"
For me Juvenal's words from this moment become a magic wand. Magical words thta pull off a cloth from the mouth of the kingdom of capoeira. There was the famous substitute of Samuel Querido-de-Deus [Loved-by-God], the fisherman-capoeirista who has a rosary of fames and histories, whose ABC is unending. There aren't enough words in Bahia to tell the bravery and the panther's agility of this man of the sea, so legendary and so terribly human.
– „Mestre Samuel was a jaguar! Querido-de-Deus didn't lose any challenges!“
This is declared by Juvenal, who tells in a few words how he became capoeira mestre:
CAPOEIRA KILLS ONE!“ (Continuation)
– „This title was given to me by Samuel Querido-de-Deus. Samuel liked my qualities and saw my future". "He was a jaguar"... repeats Juvenal. Since then he's been the substitute, has gotten the honours of Samuel Querido-de-Deus.
– „Managed to make numerous students and today I have exactly 28 students, jumping as nobody the capoeira de Angola".
Juvenal's disciples are admirable boys, in majority dockers who receive their classes in the ramp of Mercado [Modelo], close to the Saveiros Quay. Who goes to Mercado Modêlo quay, will encounter certainly Juvenal's students who, during rest and meal breaks, acquire, in an intense practise, the ancestral virtues and skills of Angola. Like his capoeira students, Juvenal is a quiet and modest docker, who adores the things and histories of Bahia of All Saints. His rum is capoeira, capoeira de Angola, as he wants to stress, to detach from Regional, of mestre Bimba.
„CAPOEIRA“ OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY
Where does this so eye-catching and popular capoeira? Is it one of the fetishistic dances, of which Bahia is so rich? Or a fight like many others?
Manuel Querino narrates about the type of the capoeirista of his time: "Angola was generally pedantic, excessively talkative, with vain gestures, a complete and worn out type of malandro and the introducer of "capoeiragem" in Bahia".
"Capoeira" was a sort of an athletic game, which consisted of rapid hand, feet and head movements, in certain dislocations of the torso, and particularily, of the agility of the jumps to the front, back, to sides, all in defense and attach, body to body.
Capoeirista was an untrustworthy and always a cautious individual. When on roads, closing to a corner, immediately took the direction towards the middle of the street; on trips, when a person tried to greet someone, the capoeirista suddenly jumped away, with the intention to divert an agression, even if imaginary".
Today's "capoeira" is a muscular or a slim guy, but fast and flexible, also talkative and self-important, without the playacting described by Querino. He's not a malandro, nor exclusively a capoeira professional, who could be contracted for any "little service", ordered by the big ones. He is more a dancer, a man who lives the capoeirista art and thinks of himself as the the boss of the world, because like every true artist he feels a need to create, feels the inner greatness. He is a worker, a docker who passes the hours of the day and even the night doing hard work.
In the free hours, the market ramp belongs to capoeiristas. For them a huge stage is formed where their feet swing in "vadiagem", in the pulsating capoeira, to the monotonous sound of the berimbau, - tin-tin which is a lovely obsession.
Today's capoeirista doesn't carry "a golden ring in the ear, as the symbol of force and bravery, and the never-forgotten sash-hat", like in the old time. The absolute balance before an adverse attack and the skill, the readiness for defense and attack, are what characterizes the good capoeira player. "Show the joint and I'll show who you are", exclaims the capoeirista. He liked to wear a black-and-white checked shirt, loose, with large trousers, that allow the movement of feet and body. It's common for the capoeirista to have his saint, who infallibly, is Oxossi or Ogum.
ANGOLA AND REGIONAL
Nowadays two forms of more emphasized capoeira exist. For me, Angola looks the more pure, more vital. The other, Regional, the bahian creation of mestre Bimba. Bimba created Regional, putting together kicks and to the speed of Angola numerous kicks of modern fights, from box to jiu-jitsu. Regional doesn't escape a modernism to the liking of the americans, a free-fight partnered with capoeira. It is not for less than that that some of the boys from yankee forces, when it was the time
of war, learned with Bimba Regional, which is not in the midst of the people, nor is practised in public square, in the delicious bahian folk festivals. Regional is on the beaches, in the enclosures of elegant clubs, in the feet of the boys from middle class families, who graduated from Bimba's academy. Dispite everything, I think that Bimba shouldn't get he blame. He is not too guilty. Being a poor man, his profession of a cabinet-maker earned him little to face the high cost of life. He preferred to betray Angola, to make ends meet. The classes of his school bring money and Bimba gets by, lives...
Juvenal with his authority condemns Regional. From his lips I heard these words:
– „Regional is not capoeira. It has similar traits to Angola. It has kicks taken from other fights. It was created by an angoleiro from old time. Regional only forms to catch an adversary brutally in the act of any kind of non-intelligence. Physically, it doesn't use defence without raising the hands above the adversary. Capoeira de Angola has kicks to use against any adversary, being loose or holding the angoleiro. The capoeirista uses defense without catching his competitor. I know this very well and am proud to have had a master who taught me the great value of capoeira de Angola. The truth is in the fact that the capoeirista is very fast and good in joints."
OTHER BAHIAN CAPOEIRISTAS
Other famous capoeira master was Aberrê, who left very respected students. Aberrê's student was Onça Preta, who led outstanding "rodas of mandinga", in Pau Miúdo and in Alto das Pombas, places where candomblés proliferated. Because, the capoeiristas have, many times, connections with "mothers and fathers-of-saint". Among other notable capoeiristas of more remote past, highlights Mangangá, born in Santo Amaro, in the bahian interiors. Mangangá, according to Edison Carneiro, in "Negros Bantus", was "the war name of a well-known capoeirista Besouro, the legendary hero of incredible exploits". Besouro entered in the black folclore through a chula, a capoeira song, which prays:
„My master was Mangangá;
In the roda he was
There was no other mestre".
Besouro was killed by betrayal, by the police, for having beaten eight soldiers with capoeira, all in one time.
PLACES OF „MANDINGA“
„Mandinga“ is leaving, almost lost totally, its traditional and holy theatre of fi-
(continues on page 6)
CAPOEIRA KILLS ONE!
(Continuation from page 11)
ghts: the neighborhood of Sé, Terreiro de Jesus. It was in the Terreiro where the most fearsome capoeirista disputes happened. Organized into groups of warriors, with their shouts of alarm and fight flags, the "capoeiras" fought one another. The encounters of two factions of brave guys looked like a clash of waves. The "capoeiras" defended all the entries to the Sé. At night, in the periods of "vadiagem", iron and fire were in garrison on the São Miguel hillside, in São Francisco and at the Portas do Carmo. The flag of Sé had an aura of heroism.
Despite the grief, Palm Sunday and the Holy Saturday, in part, continue to be the preferred time by capoeiristas for their friendly disputes, which resemble more a dance than a fight. The bahian folk-feasts, both religious and fetishistic, are the ones that offer the biggest chance for the interested to watch the magnificient spectacles of capoeira. During the year, happen the feasts of Boa Viagem, N. S. do Bomfim, Rio Vermelho, Santa Barbara, Conceição da Praia and many more, of the square, where the rodas of "mandinga" multiply, with the tim-tim of the berimbaus wounding the night and captivating the spectators. Not to mention the Conceição da Praia feast. It has already become a priority to be where the capoeiristas are seen. The 13th May festivities are also rich in rodas of capoeira, mainly in Santo Amaro, on the bank of Rio Subaé, in front on the Market.
On the ramp of Mercado Modêlo, mestre Juvenal unites three of his students for a capoeira roda. With work pants and checked shirts, approach the formed students: Reginaldo, a real agil cat, Evangelista and Antônio, two muscular dockers with huge steps. Around us gather the curious, to catch sight of the berimbaus in the hands of Evangelista and the other angoleiro, an excellent player of the crude instrument: the indispensable rhythm.
The berimbau is more than an instrument. Its function in capoeira is as important as the atabaques in the candomblé ritual. It's the force that galvanizes all the energies and the steps of the angoleiros, creating an african atmosphere of mystic and a fetishistic duality, in which the music and the dance are united in the invokation of the Gods. The berimbau invokes, indeed, the Nigerian orixás. It is the conductor of the movements, both distressed and very agil, of the angoleiros.
I hear Juvenal telling the history of the berimbau:
– „Capoeira is a fight that has many years, many years indeed. It came with the african from Angola. It was created by the slaves who practised to resist the prisons of the "masters" and the barbaric punishments of the "forest corporals". Capoeira was best biggest weapon that the nego slave had. When it was prohibited, it took the form of a dance, to throw off the scent. From then on appeared the berimbau. Dance without music, without rhythm doesn't exist. The berimbau was the orchestra and the negroes, on Sundays, practised capoeira to the sound of the improvised instrument. But, capoeira is a sport that teaches to fight. Whoever says that capoiera is dance is mistaken. It is mainly a combat, self-defence. We like to dance, we like samba, and we do also capoeira, a vadiação“.
So, it is the berimbau: a unique instrument, simple and rudimentary. A stick of almost two metres in lenght, that is called "verga", attached tightly, in both ends with a "steel", in shape of an arc. Almost at the bottom end of the "verga" is tightened a gourd, that takes its place as the resonance box. How is the sound made with the berimbau? The player holds the instrument in his left hand, and at the same time holds between his thumb and index finger an antique 80-real coin or a large penny. In the right hand are a stick and a caxixi, a type of caboclo accompaniment, held by the middle and the ring finger. Beating the stick on the steel, the angoleiro gives birth to an abrupt sound, the driving force of the instrument, that is amplified in the hollow space of the gourd. With expertise that is particular to him, the player brings the penny near the "steel" or separates it, making a metallic sound, a tim-tim which becoimes the magical rhythm of capoeira. In a binary beat go on the metallic rhythms of the berimbau.
When the roda of "mandinga" is formed, berimbau is the one that gives the first speach. Pandeiros and rattles complete the orchestra of capoeira. The rattle is today less used, but the use of pandeiros is common. The arena for the fight forms naturally. Two fighters, appointed by mestre Juvenal, take places is front of the orchestra that is made of two berimbaus and two pandeiros. Squatting are angoleiros Reginaldo and An-
(Concludes on page 14)
„Capoeira kills one!“
(Conclusion of page 6)
tônio, staying in this position for some moments. I think that the scene of the fighters, giving respect to the berimbaus, has resemblance to the „moutubá“ cerimony of the gêge-nagô candomblés, in saluting the sacred instruments, the atabaques, and the "mother-of-saint". It is a sort of precept, where the fighters ask for protection from the orixás to themselves. On the side of the musicians are two troubadours, including Juvenal. The "mestre of the roda", who is the main instrumentalist, sings the first song, which is not exclusive as have pointed out some researchers and interested ones of bahian capoeira. Edison Carneiro, the writer, in 1936 registers how the first song of the capoeira Angola roda starts.
„I was at the foot of the Cross
Saying my prayer
When Catarino came,
In the paintings of the dog, etc.
„Only after these verses, says the bahian writer, the fight starts". Today, the fight really starts, when the songs stop and the owner-of-the-roda yells to the fighters, who keep circling the arena: "Around the World"! or "See the Around the World!". The angoleiros, with their armsraised, touch hands lightly, taking later positions for a fight.
Any important song can start the "mandinga" roda. Accompanied by the hand-claps of the spectators, the men in the orchestra sing:
„Anum-bird doesn't sing in the cage,
Not inside nor outside;
It only sings on top of the anthill,
When it sees an ant outside“.
This is a sort of a challenge. Comes another little quatrain, sung with grace:
„I was born on Saturday,
Raised on Sunday;
I played capoeira“.
They interpret now one of the most popular and interesting songs on capoeira, which serves as chorus for the crowd:
The rooster sang. Ê, the rooster sang,
Starch to starch! Ê, starch to starch,
Water to drink! Ê, water to drink,
Iron to hit! Ê, iron to hit,
Now comes the little quatrain that is the favourite of all the mandinga rodas: it is the vocal expression of capoeira:
„Zum, zum, zum,
Capoeira kills one.
„Zum, zum, zum,
In the shrine only one stays!“
The Angola songbook has a richness and variety without comparision in the negro folclore of Bahia and Brazil. It is the medium by which many melodies go to circulation in the capital region, others created by angoleiros, adding to the spendid collection new elements and new colors. The influence of the sea, of the life full of danger and adventures of the sailors, the maritime spirit that is present in the ramp, that came on "Bahia" and comes on other ships, make you feel the "mandinga" songbook. Lets see this quatrain:
„Piauí, the torpedo-ship!
The battleship „Bahia“!
The insubordinate sailor,
Are having a party“.
Here is a notable song, well disputed in the capoeira rodas, for the ancestry it instills:
„Boy, who was your mestre,
Your mestre was Salomão;
The disciple who learns,
For your mestre I give a lesson.
Since capoeira has a lot of plots,
I jump with you and teach you
What you wouldn't learn“.
CAPOEIRISTA IN FEB [Brazilian Expeditionary Force]
Manuel Querino tells that in the war of Paraguai, various capoeiristas took part in the fights, establishing themselves as heros and for the bold acts in the fight man to man. The cadet Melo was given a medal and on the front "used large pants, a cap or a flashy sash-hat, and didn't dispensate the intricate ways of the understandings of "manginga".
Also, in a recently-ended war, among the despatched bahians who faught the nazis in Italy for the independence of the people, young capoeiristas sacrificed themselves in the fight against armed fascism. Juvenal never forgets of corporal Rosalvo, his student, who was mortally wounded in the whiteness of the snow in Monte Castelo. One more hero-angoleiro and for this he deserved a song, sung alot by the "mandinga"-lovers:
„You took place as a soldier in the Army,
In the first regiment;
From the soldier became a corporal,
From corporal to a sergeant.
Brazil said it had,
Japan that it didn't.
It was a mighty war,
On the Castelo hill
Where we won the germans.“
„AROUND THE WORLD!“
– „Around the world!". The owner-of-the-roda gave the war cry. Everybody went silent, with eyes fixed on the two angoleiros. The songs and hand-claps ceased. The only was to keep on going were the metallic and decisive rhythms of the berimbaus: rhythm, rhythm... The fighters fell onto the arena, one in front of the other, giving hints of preparing kicks. Reginaldo launches a "meia-lua fechada" in Antônio's chest, who with an amazing agility, defends himself, "falling to a joint", which means he pulls his body back a little, sliding on the heels. Without gesturing, Antônio is immediately cheeky with a rasteira without effect, because his adversary didn't give off for the kick's victory. The tim-tim of the berimbau continues uninterrupted, marking the beat. The legs in the air, pointed rhythmically, search to aim at the body of each adversary. It is a vibrant dance and attractive as an abyss. It has choreographic traces that do not end as two semi-circles to fight with undefinable movements, inside a circular arena. Grotesque and brutal, capoeira is, also, a pure and crude dance of two muscular and fast bodies, of two malicious forces. I see a very personalized and a multi-changeable fight, whose complete description would deserve pages. The adversaries jump, create incredible situations, free themselves from threacherous and violent attacks, at the same time making new attacks. They are aware of the mysteries and the crafts of the fight. The kick which is made with mastery, for the little effect that in causes to the adversary, a little imbalance at least, is considered a point in friendly capoeira. The angoleiro who manages to get the most number of points in certain amount of time is considered victorious.
It is common, in the capoeira rodas, to put a coin in the centre of the roda. The adversaries dispute to pick it up with their lips in the first place. The secret is to not allow the enemy to seize the coin. The legs have an important role in all of the game. They are all agility and movement. The arms, as the opposite, represent the factors of balance, in the low game, and in the attack only act in "Neck Kick" and in "Fingers to Eyes", which is prohibited in the real fights. In the „balões“, however the hands are indispensable. I register here, according to mestre Juvenal, the most respectable kicks and steps of capoeira de Angola: „Cabeçada Sôlta“, „Cabeçada Prêsa“, „Meia Lua Baixa“, „Balão Açoitado“, „Rabo de Arraia“, „Balão Atravessado“, „Pulo de Chapa“, „Tesoura Fechada“, „Chibata de Calcanhar“, „Chibata de Peito de Pé“, „Meia Lua Virada“, „Duas Meias Luas num Lugar Só“ e „Pulo Mortal“.