•  Dictated by the sound of the berimbaus - the game of capoeira de Angola 
    Folha da Manha
    28th May 1958

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    • Photo 1: The age doesn't impede Vicente Pastinha to continue fighting like a boy

      Photo 2: Berimbau, caxixi and pandeiro accompany capoeira

      Photo 3: In capoeira only the kicks and headbutts count

    M Pastinha, 1958

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      Dictated by the sound of the berimbaus - the game of capoeira de Angola
      Folha da Manha, São Paulo
      28th May 1958

      Report by
      Antonio PIROZELLI's photos

      The rhythms of the primitive instrument serve even to indicate the presence of strangers... - A traditional way of fighting, where the use of the feet and head surpasses by far that of the hands - Famous "capoeiras", who are said to have "the closed body"

      SALVADOR, 14 (via VARIG) – Reide „Brasil Norte-Sul", for the report of the FOLHAS on a domestic jeep DKW-VEMAG –

      „Little lady, what do you sell there?
      I sell the rice from Maranhão
      My master sent me to sell it
      On the lands of the Solomon,

      Mestre Pastinha sang the chulas with foundation, squatting, next to his "adversary", in front of the berimbaus, while the choir reponds:

      „Ê, ê, aruandê buddy,
      The rooster sang
      Ê, ê, the rooster sang, buddy…“

      The fighters, squatting, hopped, perhaps praying their "strong prayers", to evade a bullet, ambush or knife; then, later, came to the center of the roda, turning their bodies on their hands and start to ginga, which is at the same time a dance, and the main fight.


      The berimbau commands the game. If „São Bento Grande“ is played, the game is fast, if „São Bento Pequeno“ the game is „samba da capoeira“. Playing „Banguela“, it's „jogo de dentro“, with a knife, while with „Santa Maria“ the game is slow. „Ave Maria“ is the rhythm for the „capoeira hymn“, and with the rhythm „Amazonas“ the game is medium-paced. For th „low game" the rhythm is „Iuna“ and the berimbaus play „Cavalaria“, as a warning rhythm, when someone not connected to the roda arrives.

      The berimbau is the main instrument of the capoeira fight. In the old days the "mouth berimbau" was used, a plant fibre on a bow, where the mouth was used as a ressonance box and the percussion was made with a knife on the chord. Today, the "stomach berimbau" is used, made of a wooden stick, which holds a steel wire under tension. The ressonance box is a little gourd connected to the wire with a string. A little stick produces the sound, the modulations done with a copper coin, and by moving the mouth of the gourd closer of further from the stomach.

      The right hand, that holds the stick between the thumb and index finger, also holds the caxixi, with the middle and ring finger. This way, each hit with the stick over the chord is accompanied by the dry sound of the caxixi. This instrument is a little bambu basket, containing Tuquim seeds, and closed at its base with a piece of gourd.

      The reco-reco, a large slice of bambu with crossing incisions, on which a piece of wood is passed, and the well-known pandeiro, complete the "orchestra" to accompany capoeira.


      Capoeira was brought to Brazil (and grew in all parts of the Bay of Bahia) by the blacks coming from Angola, possibly warriors. In capoeira, the feet and the head have the biggest importance, the hands stay on the secondary plane, making the fight efficient against the europeans, who used almost exclusively the hands in their fights of defence and attack. This had also been the main motive for policial repressions that capoeira suffered, in the times of the mill owners.

      The blacks, however, didn't loose time to find a solution: the same way they knew how to discuise their religion with that of their masters, they did the same with capoeira, introducing pantomimes, mimics and dances, accompanied by music. They formed rodas where the fighters exercised themselves to the sound of the mouth berimbaus and hand-claps and the masters and their wives liked it.

      And so, playing, this fighting style grew in Bahia, introducing for the shining of its musical part, the pandeiro, the caxixi and the reco-reco, substituting the primitive "mouth berimbau" for the "stomach berimbau". And the capoeiristas, in Bahia, ended up inclusively as legends of fighters with bodies closed against the bullets and white arms, who had dealings with sourcery, powerful talismans, that became "forest plants" under pressure, and that challenged whole police platoons, undoing any kind of trap or siege with ray-kicks, sweeps and headbutts. Names that stayed recorded in capoeira's brave history.

      Still today live in Bahia and fight capoeira and make new "angoleiros" famous mestres such as Vicente Pastinha, who paid tribute to the report of the FOLHAS, with an excellent demonstration, Valdemar and Mestre Bimba, among others. The last is considered as a "reformist", since he introduced in the authentic "capoeira de angola" new and exotic steps taken from other fights and dances, such as the japonese judo and the free-fight. And he has his "academy" on the Pelouringho hillside [actually who had his academy there was M Pastinha - velhosmestres.com].

      The capoeiristas of the old guard, however, preserce still, as did Mestre Pastinha, the original authenticity of the game, [..] the basis of agility and cunning.

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