Capoeira and candomblé for export on the stage of the artistic culture
Coreography of Angola under S. Paulo's drizzle
Ibiapaba Martins's report
Correio Paulistano, 13/Oct/1953
A Bahian folkloric fact became an exportation material – There was a citizen who tried to transform our Umbanda shrines into Candomblé Shrines – He wanted the mães de santos to wear dresses like the baianas who don’t sell acarajé any more in the new Bahia – Mestre Pastinha, the defender of the Tradition
There is a Bahian fever in São Paulo. Everything that refers to the things of the good land, meets resonance under the paulista drizzle. There are exagerations also everywhere and many people take advatange of the situation, forcing their ideas and enjoying riches. It wasn’t long ago, when one of the Umbanda Shrines of this capital was sunk into a crises of debates and liturgy because one of the members of the board, an old Bahian, brought the pai de santo Joãozinha Da Goméia from Bahia.
The man came to the shrine on Santana hill receiving an ovation, crowned with floweres and incense, penetrated the chief’s cabinet and sat on the throne they’d dedicated him. The session took place, different Caboble das Sete Penas, Indio do Araxá and Morena de Indaiá spirits came down and in the end one of the Bahians there said this:
- "We, - he said, - need to transform this plot of land into an authentic candomblé. Despite (the man was well-read, wise) the appearance of candomblé, there’s still a lot missing. The devices that we have in this place (he referred to the mediums) don’t have the colourful and rich clothing that the real candomblés have, the ones in Bahia, the ones of the land of the Senhor do Bom Fim.
And etc... and etc… the man went on an on, always praising the things of his land as the best in the world.
Evidentially, there are a lot of exportation candomblé about, many people making money on the account of the Bahian tradition, which can’t be transplanted because, when the roots are lost, its reason of being is also.
THE FILHAS DE SANTO OF BAHIA
These lines are aimed at a group of Bahians that are in São Paulo. It’s called the Bahian Folk Company Oxumaré, recently arrived from Salvador to give shows in the Theatre of Artistic Culture. It came to this capital for a short time, to give a preview to the IV Centenary. They plan to return with much more experience, the poster and money to please the paulistas. Under Sergio Maia’s direction, it has, as a secretary-general W. Lima; the scene director Sergio Maia; figurines D’Crato, coreography by Sergio Maia. The first dancers are Joãozinho Da Goméia (the same we talked about above: pai de santo attacked by other pais de santo under the allegation that he misrepresented the spirit of candomblé, marketing it), Sergio Maia, Lajana and Irlanda Meneses. The solo-dancers are Katia Francarole, Marly Rios and Cleia Tibiriçá. Singers: Neide Furkin and Lolita Consuelo.
The Bahian Folk Company Oxumaré brought to S. Paulo as an article of exportation (say the slanderers) six filhas de santo full of lace, two capoeira players, berimbau and atabaque players [one of them M Ananias, read more here - velhosmestres.com]. The styling, according to what the people responsible for the spectacle said (complaining a little, because the suffering stylization arouses less interest of the paying public) is minimum.
This said, lets step on the land that interests us.
Some time ago we wrote that, today, capoeira is a myth aboutside 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. Only in Salvador 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". It wasn’t for nothing that the square located in front of the Medical Faculty of the University of Bahia – to name only one example – is called Terreiro [Shrine]. It got this name in the beginning since capoeira was always one of its precious traditions: there the "Bahian" students (actually from Ceará, Pernambuco and Sergipe) exercised the difficult and beautiful sport.
Few people outside Salvador however know, that capoeira is more or less in decadence after one of its best practitioners, Mestre Bimba, decided to make it more efficient, crossing it with boxing and jiu-jitsu. Few people know that this was enough to make him the creator of a new style of capoeira that has nothing regional despite being called Regional, opposed to the Angola School, of which mestre Bimba is one of the featured cultivators. Very few know, we need to stress, that there are still some cultivators of the old style: the so-called Capoeira of São Bento, used by the old negroes of São Bento das Lages. The capoeiristas of São Bento, as opposed to the ones of Angola, used the hands quite often.
DEFENDERS OF THE TRADITION
Who defend the tradition are the capoeiristas of Angola. According to what we were told in Salvador, they use to fight wearing white during the solemn moments, in shrines covered with mud. And the beautiful in all of this is that the game is only well played if they don’t dirty themselves during the fight, taking care of themselves and the adversary. The kicks are simulated: a foot reaches the adversary’s chest without touching it, a headbutt that only leans against the other’s jaw, a rabo de arraia that simply draws a pretty arch in the air.
We almost forgot: capoeira is practised to the sound of the pandeiro, berimbau, reco-reco, It’s started with the chulas de fundamento [ladainha] sang by the mestre:
Sinhazinha que vende aí?
Vendo arroz do Maranhão
Meu sinhô mandô vendê
Na terra de Salomão
The ones making up the roda, the ones who have reco-recos and berimbaus sing the echo:
The songs are improvised. According to the tradition, the capoeira game, practiced by the black slaves, was prohibited. But the nevertheless practiced it, in secret. They formed the circle, the berimbaus rang, the reco-reco howled… and when the Master came to inspect the slaves, these where not fighting any more, training for future fights: they were only singing and dancing. Later, the same trick was put to practice in relation to the police.
MESTRE PASTINHA, THE DEFENDER OF THE TRADITION
This report wouldn’t be complete if we weren’t making a reference to Mestre Pastinha, a real Bahian, that never marketed the art and has reached sixty five years of age. He’s got cat’s breath and tiger’s speed, fights with youngsters of twenty five and… wins with relative ease. Looks with disdainful pride at the practitioners of "Regional". The guys that are in our capital, of the folk group Oxumaré, represent his school, the Angola School, pure, coregraphic.