Mestre Pastinha's capoeira angola on the Pelourinho slope
Correio Braziliense, Brasília
21st December 1967
Report by Yvonne Jean
The Pelourinho Slope whose immense and admirable houses evoke all the beauty of the art and whose name remembers all the cruelty of men, the slope from which the negro whipping post was taken down, but which today, all the same, an immense whipping post of misery, the slope - a symbol of the mysterious city of Salvador and of the afro-brazilian civilization, was, really, the place destined for the headquarters of the Capoeira Angola Academy and the barracks of Mestre Pastinha.
Vicente Ferreira Pastinha is this old bahian capoeirista - he is 78 years old - who started the capoeira Angola practise - "the only pure one", as he says - when he was 10 years old, with Mestre Benedito who came from Africa. Still today, Mestre Pastinha runs the Academy and plays, with his students, the berimbau, pandeiro, réco-réco, agôgo and rattle, and with them he sings the melodies which rhythm "moves the soul of capoeiristas", giving them "grace, tenderness, charm and mysticism".
ANGOLA IN MINOR KEY
And while the capoeiristas sang „Canary from Germany / Who killed my finch; / Canary from Germany / Sings Angola in minor key / Canary from Germany / I sing capoeira / In Bahia and in Maceió“, the mestre, respectfully helped by his students, - the cataract made his almost blind - came closer and, right away, transmitted us his joy.
- „We are always happy, capoeira gives joy", says Mestre Pastinha right away, "because it's not only to prepare the individual for the attack or defence against an agressor, but also develops through the physical and mental exercises a true physical equilibrium: the capoeirista is a man who knows to dominate himself before dominating and for this capoeira demands loyalty, absolute obedience to the rules of the game and some mysticism".
AT THE FOOT OF THE BERIMBAU
The two first capoeiristas prepare themselves for the game. In front of the group of musicians (all the capoeiristas are also musicians, taking turns), squatting at the foot of the Berimbau, they listen respectfully the singers. They bless themselves, turn to face the adversary and start the "low game".
Mestre Pastinha comments: - „Do you feel the joy? The hatred is being nestled. It's gone. I'll show how the man prepares for tomorrow's fight, to protect his own integrity, cautiously, so as not to offend the fellow man, and always developing more the resistance and speed.
We were already impressed with this absolute coordination of bodily movements, the "ginga" and the way the capoeirista distracts the attention of the adversary to prepare for the application of his kick. More than anything, everything is done with hte grace of a dance.
We asked if we could see, after the splendid fight-dance a real fight, to better understand how the self-defence and capoeirista's attack works.
FOR REAL, NO!
Mestre Pastinha almost gets angry:
- "People always ask me for "a real" spectacle. They don't understand. If were rivals... This is not boxing, that, with cold blood, gives hurting blows. Capoeira is folklore, it's beauty, is joy. Of course it prepares the man for a fight and defence, but, besides all its cunning - even more important than the agressiveness - an accident during the game is very rare".
And he talks about the cunnings that fool the adversary: the capoeirista pretends that he retires, returns suddenly, jumps from side to side, advances, retreats, pretends he doesn't see the other, spins and contorts himself, he has no hurry, because he only launches the kick when there is little chance to miss.
We were filled with enthusiam by the speed of the fight that engages with the hands, the head and, mainly, the feet. A fight of attacks against which there is no possible defence if they happened during a quarrel. Secure and, of impressing beauty and rhythm.
Mestre Pastinha tells that there were excellent women capoeiristas. He describes with humor "the women of yesterday, with all this farm dust their skirts brushed up and they tied them to their waists, and fought, while today, when they use pants, they don't want to... And you know why? Because they want american pants, which they find more attractive and I don't want this. I want large pants, practical, not tight nor pretty. The ones of the husband or the father, or the son. But they don't want them, they don't have will power". And after this unburdening, he paints a picture: "the thief that entered the house, at night, the husband sleeping, the wife scared. If she were a capoeirista she wouldn't yell "help", wouldn't put the hands on the head, she would fight and save her life as as self-defence there is nothing better."
We laughed with the scene he painted and agreed fully: there is no better and unforseen defence.
MEIA LUA, RABO DE ARRAIA, CHAPAS.
The capoeiristas continue their fight, using feet to scrape each-others faces, threatening, but always stopping one millimetre from the target, in their elegant dance and pure sport. There comes the kick called "meia lua", with its spinning movement of the leg when the kick is given; now they plant bananeira to attack with the feet, from high-up downward; moving with incredible speed; and there come the malicious "headbutt" above the thorax of the adversary; and the "rabe de arraia", in a form of a whip of a leg on the head; and the "chapa de frente" when the capoeirista, arms crossed, puts the other down stopping him with the leg; and the "chapa de costas" with the scary rasteira; and the "jôgo de dentro", on the ground, with feet and hands not touching the ground.
We stop to breath. Mestre Pastinha presents us Getúlio, and Sérgio, and Manoel, and the young Lázaro, and others, and promises something special, "maculelé". While they get ready, I'm reading a poem on the boarding:
"Slave's sorcery in search for freedom.
It's beginning has no method
It's end is inconceivable
To the wisest capoeirista”.
The “maculelê” with which they honour us: a type of stick fighting. A frenetic fight, very rhythmical, executed with such skill that the heavy sticks look like aristocrats' walking sticks and whose crazy rhythm sings a melody that intoxicates.
THE CAVALARIA RHYTHM
The capoeiristas rest making some sommersaults and planting bananeiras. The floor of the ground floor of number 19 of Pelourinho slope was already repaired, it would not stand up to many years of this movement, if they didn't take measures to protect the beautiful house and the Academy which is the most brazilian we know.
We were already completely enthusiastic by the Angola rhythm, the "Amazonas", the "Yuna", the Santa Maria rhythm, the cavalaria rhythm (this warned, in the old days, the capoeiristas that the police cavalry was closing, as capoeira was repressed because a slave shouldn't have such means of defence and this was enough for the fight to change into a dance).
“Bahia, my Bahia, / Bahia of Salvador, / Who doesn't know Capoeira / Doesn't value it. / All can learn. / General and even doctor, / But for this it's necessary, / To find a Teacher“.
And the teacher is Mestre Pastinha, who recuses capoeira regional, - despite citing and admiring Mestre Bimba, and the Black Leopard, and Mestre Miranda, and Carlos Senna, - the mixtures with japonese fights, box, etc., preserving the purity of capoeira Angola - a sport and art, agility and beauty, originality and improvises - that we insist on, in 1968, to bring to the capital of national integration, that can't ignore any more the subtleties of one of the most typical and stimulating manifestations of our folklore and of our art.
Photo: The disciples of „Mestre Pastinha“.