• Mestre Pastinha will make capoeira moral
     Coreography of Angola in the shrines of Bahia 
    Correio Paulistano, 3/Jan/1953


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    • This is Vicente Pastinha's group of students, in the Sport Centre of Angola, all holding berimbaus, reco-recos.
    M Pastinha, 1953

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      [the caption for the series of photos] Mestre Pastinha shows how you "kiss" the guy’s chest, that is, how you give him a headbutt to the chest

      Mestre Pastinha will make capoeira moral
      Angola’s coreography in the Bahian shrines
      Ibiapaba Martins’s report
      Correio Paulistano, 3/Jan/1953

      "Boca de calça [trouser-grab] is not lost and the real capoeira doesn’t reject the pepper of antagonistic traditions between the tough guys of Salvador - "Aús" and "chibatas" in a shrine

      Today we’ll write about capoeira. The sporty subject of it is debated mainly by folklorists. From that perhaps come the crass mistakes that are being made in the discussion about our national sport. The beginning made, let’s get to the matter.

      Today, capoeira is a myth outside Bahia. Perhaps we can encounter in any part of the country some guys capable of kicking the other in the face with two feet. But only in Salvador can we see it mixed up with coreography, music, the religion and self-defence because only there can we meet the grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters of old slave owners admiring the games in the shrines and being themselves capable of difficult steps, capable of drawing up a "chibata", an "aú" and launching the body into a "feinting going but not going". The square located in front of the Medical Faculty of the University of Bahia – to name only one example – is called Terreiro [Shrine] and it got this name in the beginning since capoeira was always one of its precious traditions. Still today, almost all the medical students of the traditional Faculty take up the national sport.


      There are three capoeira schools in the city of Salvador. There are many academies, but there are only three schools (we use the word in the nowadays meaning). The first is perhaps the oldest, today almost lost. It is called the School of São Bento and is practised among those who got the tradition from the blacks of São Bento das Lages. The capoeiristas of São Bento frequently used the hands, something that the defenders of Angola didn’t do, these, however really touched the contender. The last school is called Regional and is a perfecting (in the self-defence meaning) of the old Angola by the art’s revolutionary – Mestre Bimba. Being intelligent, having a brute strength – to whom the Medical students had a soft spot for, Bimba set up an academy. The school became prosperous, the number of students rose and, with the fame of the troublemakers that went to it, the fame of the teacher grew too. It was then that the guys from Ceará go the fame of the valiants of the old Bahia, told us Heron de Alencar from Ceará, a naturalized bahian. These got together in groups of three or four and spread aroung the street of the city, fighting the soldiers, portuguese and bahian. In the end, nothing happened… because it was always a tradition in Bahia to have the chief of police from Ceará… From there mainly comes Mestre Bimba’s fame, a guy who made the greatest heresy of introducing kicks from savata, boxing and jiu-jitsu to the old Angolan negroes’ capoeira. These, the Angolan negroes, were the fathers of capoeira. Today, it’s the so-called Angola is the most pure of Bahia and the third [second?] school.


      The one defending the tradition is the Angola school. In that one we see capoeira mixed with dance. On bigger occasions the angolan is wearing white, shoes shined with white lead, a baggy jacket, a bow tie. And fights on the mud, on the dirty ground (can also do it inside a room full of ornaments and fragile vases), trying to exit the fight without any stains. And there’s more: without dirtying the adversary. He tries to fight fast with the head and the feet, stopping the kick exactly when the feet or head reach almost to touch the adversary’s body. The Angola school doesn’t use the hands, only when it’s needed to touch the floor when making "rabos de arraia", "aus" and "chibatas".

      We almost forgot of an important thing: capoeira is practised to the sound of the berimbau, caxixi, pandeiro and reco-reco, started with the chulas de fundamento [ladainha] sang by the mestre:

      SINHAZINHA, what do you sell?
      I’m selling the rice from Maranhão
      My master sent me to sell it
      On the Salomão land

      The ones making up the roda, the ones who have reco-recos and berimbaus sing the chorus:

      Ê, ê
      Rooster sang
      ê, ê
      rooster sang
      ê, ê

      The rhythms are always improvised. And the ones who hold the sound instruments, mainly the one holding the berimbau, gives the rhythm to the game, making it faster or giving pace. The players set the speed of their "chibatas", of attacks and counter-attacks to the sound of the berimbau. The tradition tells that the berimbau was used to camouflage the capoeira game during the times it was prohibited by the police. The circle was formed, the capoeiristas faught each-other but, when the police arrived, it only met an innocent circle of people playing berimbaus and pandeiros.


      He doesn’t weigh more than fourty nine kilos and is now sixty four. He is called Vicente Pastinha, a painter by profession and learned Angola when he was a child, "vadiando" with the old africans. In 1912 he abandoned the game "because it wasn’t convenient..." (the police persecuted the capoeiras severely during the time). But in 1941 happened a new surge of the sport which, as a matter of fact, had never died. Mestre Pastinha returned also and he hadn’t forgotten his "aus" and "feints of going, but not going..."

      - "I returned when asked by a friend ", he said us once. "And I’m in this vadiação to make the art moral ".

      In front of our eyes this small old man put a note of ten cruzeiros on the waxed floor of a visit hall, removed the furniture and invited "Alemão" to make some movements. "Alemão" is a civil guard in Salvador, strong as a bull, twenty three, also a capoeira master. And Mestre Pastinha explained:

      - "Do you see the money? Do you know what that means? They say there was a fight; one of us pulled a knife and this ended up falling on the floor. Now the capoeiras try to pick it up. Who gets the money, gets to live. The one who doesn’t, dies ".

      Then they started to ginga. The old man, who had played for more than an hour, after fifteen minutes of "chibatas" and "aus", "bençãos" and "cocadas", ended up picking the note up with his teeth, when the other had tried all he could to not become defeated by a contender fourty years older then him…

      Relaxed, not panting, Mestre Pastinha explained some secrets:

      - "Boca de calça isn’t lost. You should never let the other lean on you: I’m not the scales nor do I want to carry weight. A self-respecting capoeira doesn’t reject a little pepper. It’s good for adversary’s eyes. A hasty capoeirista is blind. The old man knows. We can’t look at the exposed chest without the want to kiss it (headbutt). The eyes always need to be alert…

      Mestre Pastinha will organize an academy. An Angola academy, pure, without the hybridity of Mestre Bimba’s Regional. It’s entirely free, because the old man’s intention is only to make the art moral. All wearing white, on top of the mud, in the acrobatic contortions, fast as snakes, the angolans will re-establish the prestige of capoeira that only has prestige in the old Bahia. Yes, because today capoeira is a myth outside Bahia. And every citizen who read three books about folklore knows only stupid things about the subject.

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