A GOLDEN BERIMBAU
Collaboration of Cristina CARDOSO
Photos by Jośe CAVALCANTI
A thing that nobody can deny or belittle: his title of the berst berimbau in the world that the Black Arts Festival gave him. But it so happens that Mestre Gato is not only a berimbau player. He is a great capoeirista and who wants can go and tell him that he's not. For him capoeira is the Angola one, with its 180 kicks many of which have a devastating effect. This one is not in crisis. «On the contrary, it is even becoming international. What crisis, miss»
Mestre Gato besides capoeira is the best berimbau player in the world. Seriously. First prize in the Black Arts Festival organized in Dakar, competing with twelve countries. And, what is more important, first place as a berimbau player in the Folklore Festival organized in September in Salvador, where he completed with the snakes of our land, who modesty aside, are much better than the africans. Moreover nor the berimbau or capoeira exist in Africa. It's ours, as is ours Mestre Gato.
- In Africa there isn't capoeira nor berimbau. Moreover, there never was, says Mestre Gato. What there was in 1200 was a type of berimbau played with mouth, with a verga of cipó caboclo, the ressounance box made of tin can. Instead of arame it had a twine and even in place of the traditional copper coin they used a little knife. It was a different berimbau, very different from ours which is really ours because it was here in Bahia, in the mixture of the black african and the white master in the fights for the love of the mulata girl.
WHITE GUYS IN CAPOEIRA
Mestre Gato Preto is his full nickname, received for his agility in the jumps when he was a boy and for the color of his skin. José Gabriel Goés is his batismal name, but Mestre Gato is how he is known in the capoeira rodas where he is one of the great ones and in the berimbau rodas, where he is the greatest. He starte to play capoeira eight years old, it's been thirty two years, and until today he doesn't think of quitting Angola, for him the only and real capoeira.
- Capoeira is not in crisis, no mam. On the contrary, now it is getting up, spreading from Bahia to the world. See, miss, I have students even in the United States. Eight americans, three of whom white. Imagine: even the white guys with blond hair and blue eyes are getting good in the fight of old creoles.
CAPOEIRA KILLED CURIÓ
And Mestre Gato continues: «The Angola one is a great capoeira, the real one and don't tell me it has few kicks. It has in total 180 kicks and who wants to can try to say I'm wrong. And these can kill, miss, they are very dangerous. All of Bahia remembers Curió, who died because of a headbutt that he wanted to give to a woman whom he fell in love with and became jealous. He didn't hit with a kick, and this was for the best. The Angola kicks are done alone. What has kicks gone together is Regional that was influenced by greco-roman fight, free-fight and other foreign fights. The only kicks done together in Angola are the balões.»
TO DIE IN BAHIA
In the Folcloric Centre of Bahia, with his valued berimbau slung from the shoulder, Mestre Gato speaks about the past and the future of capoeira:
Capoeira will not die, guys. It is more alive than ever, and is spreading around the world, she, who in the old days existed only in Bahia.
I even have a French student. It is becoming international, but it's good that the great masters haven't left Bahia, where they were born. They all have stayed here: Cobrinha Verde, Manteiguinha, Leó, the deceased Popó, the great Besouro who is already dead, but for me the biggest capoeirista of Bahia, Pastinha, Caiçara, none of them leave this place. They'll live until death in the city of Bahia, as I do, not leaving my land.
FROM FATHER TO SON
- I learned capoeira with my father, who learned with my grandfather. It is the legitimate Angola, that I teach now to my son Gato II and to my students there in my school called "the Academy of Mestre Gato and his students", there in Engenho Velho da Federação. Who wants to see the good capoeira go there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 19 to 22 hours and also on Sundays from 15 to 18 hours and see what is good: Aprendi capoeira com meu pai, que aprendeu com meu avô. É a legitima Angola que ensino agora a meu filho Gato II e aos meus alunos lá em minha „Academia Mestre Gato e seus alunos“, lá no Engenho Velho da Federação. Quem quizer ver a boa capoeira vá lá às segundas, quartas e sextas feiras das 19 às 22 horas e também aos domingos das 15 às 18 horas e verá o que é bom:
And it is good. Mestre Gato is a capoeirista who is known even by Vinícius de Morais and by Pasquim. Mestre Gato is a lucid, valid and inserted in the context, who from the rhythm of the berimbau demystifies all the false berimbau players. First place as the berimbau player, in a hard contest with Vermelho [de Pastinha, Maurício Lemos de Carvalho – velhosmestres.com] and Mestre Canjiquinha, challenges:
Who wants to win the next festival come to learn to play berimbau with me, there in my Academy. The prize is guaranteed.
And Mestre Gato compares today's capoeira with that of the old days:
- In those times, it was the youngsters', the drunkards' fight, and ended with a knife and death. Today everything is different. The ones who study are the refined and educated boys, who want to stay agile and have a good body. Boys that will be the future masters like Didi Cabeludo, Mário Bom Cabrito who already teaches capoeira there in Faísca, Mundinho Prêto, Paris, a french guy who went to teach Angola to the paulistas, Toninho who also went to São Paulo and Gato II, my son and successor, who will see to it that capoeira never leaves from the family.
But Mestre Gato is not only about capoeira and berimbau. It was him who brought maculelê from Santo Amaro, his land, to the land of great capoeiristas... It's him who from 1961 presents himself around Brazil: to Manchete, in a folkloric show in RGS in the Candango Feast in Brasília, in a special presentation to the President João Goulart, in TV of Brasília, in the University of Brasília, until the "Golden Berimbau" was his meaning that he's the best berimbau player of the All Saints Bay.