Another week and another Rhythm Through Diversity, a fun musical trivia section on Metronome Online, where we explore music and dance through the development of cultural and social etiquette, history, and background of people in diverse communities. The cultures around the world showcase many different musical forms and this week we will explore capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics, and music.

Capoeira took first form at the beginning of the 16th century as a martial art disguised in dance and music, allowing the enslaved Africans in Brazil to practice fighting. For a period of time this art form was even deemed illegal, and brought back to the public’s eye in the second half of the 20th century. Now, almost 100 years later, capoeira became an intangible cultural heritage protected by UNESCO.

The songs in a capoeira are executed in a call-response type of narrative.

Music plays a big role in capoeira, and sets the tempo and its style. It is performed by traditional instruments played and complementary singing. One of the most typical instruments used is called berimbau, which controls the speed of the ‘roda’ (circle/game), moving either slow or fast. Other accompanying instruments are pandeiros (hand drums), atabaques (tall wooden drum), agogo (bell), and ganza (rattle). The configuration of the instrument varies, but the berimbau is the key leading instrument, also found in low to high pitch variants. There is a fair amount of space for rhythmic improvisation within the routine, which drives the capoeira game.

The songs in a capoeira are executed in a call-response type of narrative. The subject matter could be about various topics: history, famous stories, love and even everyday chatter. The four common songs that are sung are called Ladaínha, Chula, Corrido and Quadra, and they appear at various parts of the game, sung either by a solo voice of a mestre in the call section, and up to eight singers in a chorus response.

For the many regions in Brazil we see many variations of capoeira, some more contemporary, others traditional. Let’s take a look at capoeira angola, which basically refers to all capoeira traditions that come from before the creation of the regional style, developed in the 1920s by mestre Bimba.