Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form, which combines elements of dance, play and ritualistic fighting.
The Martial Art
There are three main styles of capoeira.
This is the 'traditional' style of capoeira. Though not necessarily true, Angola is typically a slower game, that is played low to the ground. This style was advocated and christened so by Mestre Pastinha.
This style of capoeira is touted to Mestre Bimba with the aim to make capoeira training more structured and capoeira more effective as a martial art. It incorporates many of the high speed high kicks and flips that capoeira has become famous for.
This style can be viewed as a mixed form of capoeira, taking elements of both Angola and Regional styles. This is the style that our group plays.
Music is a central to capoeira. It sets the style and speed of the game that is to be played in the roda, the circle in which the game is played. Musical accompaniment is made instruments and singing.
The instruments used in the bateria (the musical line up) are:
The line up depends on the groups format or the style of capoeira played.
Singing is usually in a call- and -response format or in a narrative form. Capoeiristas sing about a variety of subjects from stories about everyday occurences to epics about famous capoeira players.
There are four types of songs in capoeira:
Ladaínha -a narrative solo sung only at the beginning of a roda, often by a mestre (master) or most respected capoeirista present.
Chula -the soloists part is much bigger than the chorus response, usually eight singer verses for one chorus response.
Corrido- the singer's part and the chorus response are equal, normally two verses by two responses.
Quadra- the same verse is repeated four times, either three singer verses followed by one chorus response, or one verse and one response.
A Brief History
Capoeira has a highly debated history, which is unsurprising as it originated in the shadows and was created by those in the margins of societies.
What is undisputed is that capoeira originated from communities of African slaves and is likely to have roots in Central african warrior dances. Just as Brazil is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures, capoeira reflects this diversity in its development and was also influenced by native Brazilians in its formation, as well as by Brazil's more contemporary inhabitants.
Capoeira was developed and practised by African slaves as a form of defense from their various oppressors but also as an escape form the horrors of life under slavery. However as such self defence training was forbidden, the dance element of capoeira was added to disguise the defiance of the slaves.
When Brazil finally ended its slave trade in 1888 and former slaves again found themselves at the margins of society, Capoeira shape-shifted to the illegal underbelly. and continued to be illegal.
It was only in 1920's that the repression of capoeira declined and went on its way to become one of Brazil's national treasure as it is today.
There are many arts that are closely related and enjoyed by those who play capoeira. These include:
Samba de roda
This a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance and musical form that has been associated with capoeira for many decades. It is accompanied by many of the same instruments that are used in capoeira is considered one of the roots forms of modern Samba.
Originally the Maculelê is believed to have been an indigenous armed fighting style, using two sticks or a machete. Nowadays it's a folkloric dance practiced with heavy afro-Brazilian percussion.
Both of these are enjoyed by our group, especially on special occasions such as birthdays and at performances.