Building the energy of a bateria is paramount to the creation of the right energy needed for the jogo (game)…
Without the music the games in the roda can not develop properly and the roda can easily fall apart
In Capoeira, just as in more classical dance forms, there would be nothing without the music – Without music there is no Capoeira* The roda (circle in which we play the physical game of Capoeira) is lead and controlled by the musicians, instruments, rhythms and songs we sing. Without strong musicians a roda can become tedious, boring or dull and also easily ends up becoming nothing more than, to an unknowing onlooker, as a street fight or brawl egged on by chanting and drumming.
The biggest of the berimbaus (bow like instruments) known as the ‘Gunga’ always starts and stops a roda and should also lead, develop and control the games that are played within the circle. A berimbau will play what is known as a chama, literately meaning calling, which is a steady drone like open stringed beat that means pay attention. Players of both the instruments and the physical game should be able to recognise this call and know how to react when they hear it.
This is a skill which takes a long time to master… Most of us as capoeiristas (players of the art form) get so excited when we play, it is easy to forget to listen to the music, your body and the game of your opponent. If you are in a game and hear a Chama, you should stop your game and both return to the foot of the berimbaus who will direct you as to what to do next: leave the roda or play differently.
Again a chama can also be called to bring the musicians back together as well, or to let everyone know the leader of the bateria is going to change the rhythm. All of the eight instruments of a traditional Capoeira Angola roda should play together and follow the speed and tempo of the Gunga.
To become a competent and well rounded capoeirista you need to also learn how to play the instruments, sing the songs and learn the music of Capoeira. This will help you to understand the art form better, you will learn how to better speak Brazilian portuguese (the main language spoken by Capoeira) and also it will give you the opportunity to learn more about Capoeira’s history, due to the fact many of the art forms stories, legends, and true history has always been passed on to new generations via the songs sung in the roda.
Nowadays, there are always new songs being written and different styles and melodies depending on the group you learn with, but there are also a great number of traditional (folklore) songs which are regularly sung in rodas across the world.
The main reason we want a good bateria and music in our rodas, is because when this energy is rich and full this allows the games to flourish also. Music hits us all in our souls and if the music in your rodas is full of life, so will be the games that develop with their energy.
Thank you for reading and keep checking back for more articles or have a look through our archive of posts on this site. We try to add a new featured article to this site every month. Axé.
* There is still a debate on when the musical instruments were introduced into the art form of Capoeira as we know it today, the scope of this article does not cover this topic.