The road to M Waldemar's hut
BAHIA Images of the land and the people
If the visitor wants to see the game of capoeira, there is, today, more than one hut that you can go to. Juvenal’s, in Chame-Chame, Pastinha’s, in Pelorinho, Canjiquinha’s, in Turismo, Mestre Bimba’s, in Alto de Amaralina, Valdemar’s, in Corta-Braço. So go to Valdemar’s, on Sunday, in the afternoon. Choose your transport, ask to go along the Estrada da Liberdade and you won’t miss it: the road by itself is
beautiful, because it is the same road that was used by the troops that made Bahia’s independance in 1823. You go for Nazaré [1 on the above map] and, right there, on the descent to Barbalho [2 on the above map], you will see, on the approaching evening, the panorama of big houses, in a line on top of the hills above which is the Convento do Carmo [3 on the above map]. Later, the Soledade house [4 on the above map], where more than one beautiful 18 century building is calling for attention, some sporting whole edges of tiles; then, to Lapinha [5 on the above map], with its small spinneret houses, with their colourful facades, in one of these having lived the artist Djanira, right there painting the figures of people who passed by: the boy selling cane, the blind orquestra, the little streets, the neighborhood boys. You will see the church square, full of people taking a walk on a Sunday, as in the old times, lovers holding hands, the bahian light dominating, the view to the town below, at the back of the square, later Liberdade, and before arriving at the cinema [6 on the above map, the neighborhood cinema, one that preceded Mr Agnelo's one], right at the corner of the Progresso [7 on the above map, a shop that preceded Olhepreço, which bought Mr Agnelo's shop later on] grocery store, you have to turn left: go on and further along is Valdemar’s hut [8 on the above map]. You can enter right away and will be well received.
The hut which is open for everybody is already full: the neighborhood folks, the ones of each Sunday, stay on foot: the benches in front are for the visitors. As many people as there are, there is always someone who gets up to give a seat to the visitors: these are the things of bahian politeness, which is not only a priviledge of Corredor da Vitória, nor of Barra, or of Graça: it if of all the bahian land. So sit and watch with all your interest, with calm, the capoeira game.
In front, sitting, is mestre Valdemar with the berimbau, in command. There are more people playing berimbau,
a pretty taut arch, which has on it lower end a ressonance box, which is a painted gourd. With a stick the player produces the vibration on the chord of the arch, using also an old copper coin, moving it closer and farther, in a rhythm, to the gourd of the stomach. There are other instruments: the pandeiros, the caxixi, the reco-reco. Since with these is formed the „orchestra“ of the game of capoeira.
With the player on his side the mestre raises his voice, beginning a song. The players, in twos, are squatting, in front of him. The tune that the mestre sings as a soloist is slow and the players accompanying him with movements are even slower, like snakes that start to move themselves: see them, visitor, how these men seem to have no bones, their limbs seem to receive an almost insensible impulse, from within. The mestre sings the last verses of his solo and the choir responds, the instruments respond strongly, the rhythm violent, the voices high:
The capoeiristas already spread around in gestures, in movements, in ballet which always has surprises. It’s a dance which is a fight: kicks, negations, sweeps, in a surprising beauty of movements. The men don’t touch each other in defences and attacks, which happen in unexpected seconds. It’s a miracle in what violence of an attack results in another attack, where nobody touches each other, nobody
is injured, nobody gets insulted. It’s a combat, it’s a dance that lasts for hours. The men are sweatty, but there is never an air of tiredness. It can be a child, a youngster, an old man: the resistance is the same. In the world of capoeira there is no chance to become beaten by the physical tiredness.
The dance will go on the whole afternoon, the songs are the most diverse, the agility of the dancers gives motivation to a variety of movements, which captivate the visitor until the night.
Caribé, who edited an excellent album of drawings about capoeira, points out that the berimbau rhythm that „dictates the game“ varies: „If „São Bento Grande“ is played, the game is fast, vicious. If the rhythm is „Banguela“ the game is close, with a knife. If it’s „Santa Maria“ the game is low, in which the buddies wiggle around like worms, on the ground, without touching, falling softly, as if being made of cotton. If it’s „São Bento Pequeno“, the fight is almost a samba.“ And there are also other rhythms like „Ave Maria“, „Amazonas“, „Iúna“, „Cavalaria“.
When it comes to the songs, there are dozens of them, not only permanent ones, that pass from generation to generation, such as „Apanha laranja no chão, tico-tico“, considered the hymn of capoeira, but also imporvised ones. Valdemar has improvised more than one, at least, like the folk troubadours.
Has the game of capoeira always existed? Since the beginning of slavery, coming from Angola, but as an act of simulation, hidden, behind it, the real intentions of its components were trained to fight against of what may come. The capoeiras were playing
and their masters didn’t suspect a thing. The negroes from Angola arrived already being the masters of their agility, of their physical force, to prove themselves in more than one conflict, in more than one incident. And these men that faught, crushing the adversary in seconds, killing him with a jump, with a turn of their body, were made of famous capoeiras, who filled many times the streets with panic. Street of cities like Rio, Salvador or Recife.
[read more on the portuguese version]