The Music of Capoeira

The Music of Capoeira

There are three main instruments in Capoeira: the berimbau, the pandeiro and the atabaque.

The BerimbauBerimbau {’beh-rim-bough’}:
Originally from Africa the Berimbau is today used extensively in Candomblé rituals in Brazil as well as Capoeira.

The berimbau is the most important and controls the style and speed of the game. It is a bowed instrument with a resonating gourd. It is made up of the cabaça (gourd), the beriba (wooden bow), arame (wire), the sound is made with the baqueta (beater) and the tone changed by pressing the pedra (rock) against the arame. It is played together with a caxixi (‘Ca-she-she’) which is shaken while striking the string.

There are different types of rhythms or “toques” played by the berimbau, the most basic distinction being between the rhythm for Angola and for Regional. In a traditional roda of Angola there are 3 berimbaus, the gunga (low), the medio (medium) and the viola (high) each playing a different but complementary variation
Some of the toques on the berimbau include; Angola, São Bento Pequeno, São Bento Grande de Angola, Benguela, São Bento Grande de Mestre Bimba, Cavalaria, Santa Maria, Iuna, Idalina, Amazonas, Jogo de Dentro and Samba.

The PandeiroPandeiro {‘pan-dare-o’}:
Originally from East Africa, the pandeiro (tambourine) is traditionally made of wood and goatskin, and has five sets of jingles. The conventional pandeiro from Rio de Janerio was first introduced into samba and chorinho as a rhythmic base but later its versatility meant that it spread throughout Brazil.

The AtabaqueAtabaque {‘ata-bak-ay’}:
You guessed it, out of Africa once again, This is the tall drum in the roda. It’s traditionally made from jacaranda wood to form the conical shape while a calfskin head covers the top of the drum. As well as for Capoeira, it is used a lot in Candomblé and Umbanda rituals all over Brazil.
There are three kinds of atabaques: Rum, Rumpi, and Lê. Rum has the deepest sound and is a solo drum; Rumpi has a medium sound, and Lê is the highest. These three hold the beat.

Other instruments that are often used in the roda, especially for samba, are the agogo (two-toned African bells) and the reco-reco (scraper).

Famous composers such as Gilberto Gil have also made arrangements using guitar or piano with the berimbau and singing traditional Capoeira songs. The berimbau has also been a popular addition to many recent popular songs from Brazil, Argentina, and even the USA and Australia.

Capoeira Downloads & Links

For lyrics to capoeira songs and downloads, check out these pages.