Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art descended from African slaves. Inherent to the art is the use of music and dance; it was practiced and developed in secret, and the presence of music helped it appear to the powers that be that it was part of a harmless ceremony. Music is such a part of the art that participants “play” at capoeira; they don’t practice or spar.
The instrument traditionally associated with Capoeira is a berimbau, a single stringed instrument with a hollowed out gourd used as a resonator pictured here. It almost certainly descended from traditional African percussion instruments, though today’s berimbau is unique to Brazil and those who play at Capoeira abroad.
Music has a long association with martial prowess – battle cries often arose out of gourds, shells, and, later, bugles and trumpets. But most martial arts are meant to be quiet; the element of surprise is something to be maintained as long as possible. Capoeira is a beautiful hybrid of martial art, dance, and almost a “get to know you” ritual. It’s beautiful to watch, and the participants tend to be gentle, wonderful human beings.
Take a watch/listen to this capoeira play session, which is pretty much exactly how it goes. You can see the top of a berimbau poking up from the heads of the circle:
Thanks for reading.