The Music of Capoeira Angola

Bateria - Encontro do Mar 2 - Plymouth Aug 2012

“…The berimbau is the first mestre…”

There is the full orchestra of instruments that accompany the roda of Capoeira: beginning with the berimbau gunga (or bera boi), the berimbau medio and the berimbau viola (all bow-like instruments of differing pitch), two pandeiros (tambourine), one agôgo (bells), one rêco-rêco (bamboo scraper) and one atabaque (tall drum).

“…It is not necessary to sing in a specific way- a specific energy (axé) has to come out from the game and this starts with the berimbau, the rhythm and the singing…”

The berimbaus hold the main melody of all Capoeira music and are the most important instrument within the orchestra. A berimbau is a single stringed instrument played with a stick and rattle and only has four different notes. Having said this the sounds it can produce and the rythmns are a lot more complex than you may think, especially when played skilfully.

The order of a bateria (orchestra) is as follows as taught to us by our master (from left to right):

Gunga – Medio – Viola – Pandeiro – Pandeiro – Reco-reco – Agôgô – Atabaque

Each of the three berimbaus has it’s own purpose/role in the bateria:

  • Gunga: sets up the toque (rhythm)
  • Medio: inverts the toque
  • Viola: plays variations on either toque (usually the Gunga)

The other instruments all play an accompanying roll to the berimbaus.

“…It is not the singer who is singing. They must embody something that nobody is seeing and only they are feeling-  they ought to emit a feeling of Capoeira…”

African myth relating to the origin of the musical bow

This myth was said by Mestre Nó (Norival Moreira de Oliveira) to have come from East and North Africa:

“…A young girl went out for a walk. Upon crossing a stream, she knelt down and drank water with cupped hands. At the very moment when she avidly satisfied her thirst, a man dealt her a strong blow on the nape of her neck. As she died, she immediately transformed into a musical bow, her body became the wood, her limbs the cord, her head the sound box and her spirit the melancholy and sentimental music…”