Music is integral to Capoeira. It sets the tempo and style of game that is to be played within the roda. The music is composed of instruments and song. The tempos differ from very slow (Angola) to very fast (São Bento Regional). Many of the songs are sung in a call and response format while others are in the form of a narrative. Capoeiristas sing about a wide variety of subjects. Some songs are about history or stories of famous capoeiristas. Other songs attempt to inspire players to play better. Some songs are about what is going on within the roda. Sometimes the songs are about life, or love lost. Others are lighthearted or even silly things, sung just for fun. Capoeiristas change their playing style significantly as the songs or rhythm from the berimbau commands. In this manner, it is truly the music that drives Capoeira.
There are three basic kinds of songs in Capoeira. A ladainha (litany/intorduction) is a narrative solo usually sung at the beginning of a roda, often by the Mestre (Master). These ladainhas will often be famous songs previously written by a Mestre, or they may be improvised on the spot. A ladainha is usually followed by a chula or louvação, following a call and response pattern that usually thanks God and one’s teacher, among other things. Each call is usually repeated word-for-word by the responders. The ladainha and chula are often omitted in Regional games. Finally, corridos are songs that are sung while a game is being played, again following the call and response pattern. The responses to each call do not simply repeat what was said, however, but change depending on the song.
The instruments are played in a row called the bateria. The instruments are:
- The Berimbau, which look like an archer’s bow using a steel string (arame) and a gourd for resonation (cabaça). It is played by striking the string with a stick (baqueta), and the pitch is regulated by a stone (dobrão). Legend has it that, in the old times, knives or other sharp objects were attached to the top of the berimbau for protection and in case a large fight broke out. These three bows are the Berraboi (also called the bass or Gunga), Medio, & Viola, and lead the rhythm.
- The Pandeiros (tambourines)
- Atabaque (conga-like drum), a common feature in most Capoeira baterias, is considered an optional instrument, and is not required for a full bateria in some groups.
- The Reco-Reco (rasp)
- Agogo (double gong bell)
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