What Bahia has to offer
Darwin Brandão's article
Salomão Scliar's photos
Capoeira is one of the most beautiful and rich manifestations of the Bahian folklore. Some famous capoeiristas of the past are today legendary figures.
Capoeira has its yesterday's masters and has its today's. The ones of today are talking with mystic respect about Bezouro, Samuel de Deus and Aberrê. There are stories of love and bravery told about them, about the people who had closed bodies and catlike speed. In today's shrines the ones who lead are Mestre Waldemar, Vicente Pastinha, Juvenal and others who will be legends tomorrow. The shrines are spread over Liberdade, Brotas, Federação, faraway neighborhoods and where it's still possible to "vadiar" out in the open or in the sheds covered with straw. The vadiação happens on Sundays, when the capoeiristas appear with pressed clothes. And when the berimbau becomes angry, the fighters jump into the center of the roda. Each one with their own ginga, with their own tricks, with their own game characteristics. Sometimes they drag themselves on the ground to make surprise attacks. Some prefer the "high game".
When the first slaves arrived in Brazil, with them came also the capoeiristas. On the new land, the fight was an efficient weapon against the forest-captains, against the slave master. Outlawed, it however survived: the negroes introduced the music and capoeira was so losing its fight aspect, became almost a dance. Such is the capoeira of Bahia, capoeira de Angola: a coreographic spectacle where the ballet dancers execute violent steps of a modern ballet. The berimbau (a stick flexed with a common wire, that has a gourd on its lower part that is considered a sound box, a little stick beats on the tight wire making sounds that are accompanied by caxixi, pandeiro, reco-reco and sometimes by the onlookers' hand claps) commands the game with its characteristic rhythms which Caribé, an excellent capoeirista, explains in a book, illustrated by himself: "São Bento" is a fast game, eye-catching. If the rhythm is "Banguela", the game is jôgo de dentro. If it's "Santa Maria", the game is low, where the buddies wriggle on the grounf like worms, without touching, falling lightly, as if they were cotton. If it's "São Bento Pequeno", the fight is almost like a samba.
[Photos 1 and 2, in the first hut of M Waldemar:] Traíra, squatting, tries to make a cabeçada against Magé [Nagé]. Both are famous Bahian capoeiristas. The crowd vibrates. On the ground, full of nickels, a handkerchief. Who picks it up with his mouth, wins the game and the money.
[Photos 3, 4 and 5, in Água de Meninos, at the back there's the Church of Santíssima Trindade:] A ginga to the back and the capoeirista saves himself from a "benção". Capoeirista has to be, more than anything, very fast, know how to use well the feet, the hands and the head. And have also the spiritual presence: know when exactly to apply the kick, after a few deceptions, controlling the adversary's game.