In recent decades, capoeira has been transformed from a regional Brazilian martial art/dance genre into an internationally known and widely taught art form and philosophy, through the hard work and zeal of its masters and participants. Capoeira is also one of the ways Brazilians of African descent are re-thinking their historical ties to African traditions, their place in the African diaspora, and their roles in contemporary Brazil and beyond.
The origin of Capoeira Angola is related to many Central African cultural manifestations including the ancient practice of N’Golo from Angola. The word “N’Golo” in Kikongo, a language spoken in Angola and Zaire, means “force” or “power”. “N’Golo” also refers to the “Dance of the Zebras”. The dance was part of a rite of passage in which young men competed. The young man who gave the best presentation of balance, grace, and flexibility was able to marry without paying the traditional bride-price.
In its history and practice, Capoeira Angola reflects the philosophy and aesthetics of its place of origin. Many traditional African cultures have no clear-cut distinctions between the sacred and the secular, between work and play, between fight and fun. Capoeira Angola integrates music, movement, theatrics, play, martial arts, philosophy, and spirituality. Like many other African-based traditions, Capoeira Angola has been passed down orally from master to student, always with respect for the original masters. Over time, different styles of capoeira such as Regional, Actual and Contemporary have developed.
(… keep reading here)
2. HISTORY OF GCAP
The Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho (GCAP) was founded in 1980, in Rio de Janeiro. In 1982, mestres Moraes and Cobra Mansa returned to Bahia, establishing the headquarters of GCAP in Salvador, a city where generations of capoeiristas have maintained the traditions of Capoeira Angola and today continue to pass on the history, philosophy, and movements of the art. Since that time,GCAP has succeeded in spreading its vision of Capoeira Angola, founding centers in Brazil in the cities of Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro; and in the United States in Oakland, California, and Washngton, D.C.
By recovering and retelling the long history of political and cultural struggle embodied in Capoeira Angola, emphasizing the importance of African contributions to Brazilian history, the group continues the battle for racial justice. This commitment to social service through educational and social projects with children was reinforced in 1991, when GCAP became involved with the Projeto ERÊ, the Brazilian Center for Infancy and Adolescence (CBIA), and other cultural organizations of the Bahian Movimento Negro (“Black Movement”). Projeto ERÊ is the cultural component of the Projeto AXÉ, a non-governmental organization which provides assistance to children and adolescents often living and working in the streets of Salvador, Bahia. The voices of children you hear in the recording are the children of Projeto AXÉ, the future mestres of Capoeira Angola. Today GCAP is recognized as an important center for research and documentation of Capoeira Angola and is respected as one of the most traditional academies of Capoeira Angola, dedicated to the formation of the capoeirista angoleiro in his or her totality.
(… keep reading here)
3. ZUMBI LIVES!
As the Grupo Capoeira Angola Pelourinho is engaged in the constant fight for the liberation of Afro-Brazilians, we would like to take this opportunity to pay homage to our hero, Zumbi dos Palmares, on the 300th anniversary of his death. Zumbi was the king of Palmares, the largest quilombo (fugitive slave or maroon community) in what is the modern state of Pernambuco. Palmares endured repeated attacks over the eighty years of its existence during the seventeenth century. For more than a half-century, the community was led valiantly by Zumbi who fought for freedom for African peoples in Brazil. His assassination was the product of fear, hatred, and a profound lack of understanding.
In many ways, we continue to face the same enemies today. The descendents of Africans living in myriad different places are still aspiring to a position of full citizenship, fighting for the day when the systems built in part through the abduction, violation, torture, and forced labor of African peoples will recognize the rights of all people – including the granddaughters and grandsons of the slaves. To GCAP, Zumbi dos Palmares symbolizes the struggle for those rights, already due to the Afro-Brazilian people, for their contribution to the construction of Brazil. For GCAP, Zumbi lives on, just as do all who have joined in this struggle, like the capoeira mestres Pastinha, Bimba, Valdemar, Cobrinha Verde, Canjuquinha, Bobo, and others. This work is a tribute to all those who have struggled on behalf of the black community spread throughout the Americas and around the world.
“TOMA KWIZA” – Mestre Moraes
4. THE SONGS
The traditional song cycle of Capoeira Angola is divided into three distinct parts (ladainha, chula, and corrido), each one demanding different forms of singing, responses from the players and audience, and skills from the person leading the singing. The singing is not simply musical accompaniment for the game; rather, it is an integral part of the art, giving energy and feedback to the players and infusing the roda (the human ring in which Capoeira Angola is played) with spirituality and history.
Part I (tracks 1-7) – Written and performed by Mestre Moraes
1. Ladainha (Rei Zumbi dos Palmares):
History deceives us/ Says everything contrary/
Even says that abolition/ Happened in the month of May/
The proof of this lie/ Is that from misery I do not escape.
Long live the 20th of November/ Moment to be remembered/
I don’t see in the 13th of May/ Anything to commemorate/
A long time passes/ And the Black man always will struggle.
Zumbi is our hero/ Zumbi is our hero, old friend/
Of Palmares he was the leader/ For the cause of the Black man/
It was he who fought the most/ In spite of all the fighting, my friend/
The Black man did not liberate himself, comrade!
It’s time, it’s time/ It’s time, it’s time comrade/
Let’s go/ Let’s go comrade/
Along the coast/ Along the coast comrade/
Long live my mestre/ Long live my mestre comrade/
Who has taught me/ Who has taught me comrade.
3. Santa Barbara (corrido):
Saint Barbara is syncretized (a form of incorporation) with Iansã, the Goddess of wind, storms and lightning in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. The words translate: “Santa Barbara will [bring] lightning”.
4. Côco no Dente (corrido):
This song jokes about a little rodent (the agouti or cutia), eating coconut. It translates roughly as: “I saw a cutia with coconut in its teeth/ Eating farinha with hot coconut candy/ I saw the cutia with coconut in its teeth/ with coconut…”
5. Tem Dendê, Tem Dendê (corrido):
Dendê is the fruit from which palm oil is extracted, commonly used in Afro-Brazilian religious ritual and cuisine. To “have dendê” in Capoeira Angola is to have power, or malícia (cunning, savy, malice). The lyrics translate as: “There is dendê in the game of Angola”. The lead singer will often fill in the beginning of the line with names, places, instruments, or other things to address the people present or the events that are occurring.
6. Tim, Tim La Vai Viola (corrido):
This song refers to the berimbau viola, the highest-pitched berimbau in the orchestra of Capoeira Angola. It is responsible for improvising variations on the basic rhythm, the toque, being played on the other berimbaus. The opening of the song translates as “Tim, tim, tim, there goes the [berimbau] viola (x3), the beautiful game is the game of Angola”. “Tim, tim, tim” is the sound of the viola.
7. Saia do Mar, Marinheiro (corrido):
This song depicts the fisherman telling a stranger or enemy to leave the seaport: “Get out of the sea, get out of the sea, seaman…”.
*The series initiated with this post constitutes a transcription of the record “Capoeira Angola from Salvador, Brazil”, by Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings (1996), produced by Mestre Cobra Mansa and Heidi Rauch in collaboration with the Organization of American States and Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho. I got it some years ago from my son as a birthday present and have been planning for a while to present it here (in fact, I’ve already played here one of its tracks entitled Angola). The previous post, which reports on a protest event against racist practices by the local police, to take place tomorrow in Salvador da Bahia, led by a number of groups and entities affiliated to the Bahian Movimento Negro (Black Movement), prompted me to start its presentation today.