Excerpt: Salomão Mandou Chamar, a Parable by Mestre Acordeon

1 02 2008

Writing yesterday’s post on feminism and envy reminded me of a story I read in Mestre Acordeon’s Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, which was possibly my favourite part of the book.  The story is too long to be all typed out here (it takes up an entire chapter), but I thought I’d excerpt the relevant part for you guys.  It still makes a great and inspiring read, but be sure to read the entire story if you ever get the chance!

 Capoeirista playing berimbau on beach

The near-full moon was spreading a silver mantle and once more the compulsion to hold my berimbau possessed me. Its smooth wood was like a silk bow sliding into my hands. The steel ring was taut and alert like a horse lined up for a race. The gourd was shining in my hands as if its soul needed a human touch to materialize. I felt the texture of its carefully painted surface. One drawing was a roda with many people. Another depicted Mestre Bimba holding his berimbau. The last one was an image of myself sitting on an old tire on a beach playing for the stars. I looked around me and the scenery was identical to the painting on my gourd. The gourd had become the real world and myself a part of the berimbau.

The berimbau’s chant spread to the four corners of the earth like a thick veil keeping all creatures warm and peaceful. The shapes around began to change, the earth was breathing. The land was moving in waves, rippling out from the epicentre of the sound to the limits of my understanding. The whole universe was contracting and expanding in a constant pulse to the cadence of the musical bow. Everything was following a perfect sense of proportion. For a moment I stopped playing and this universal harmony was shattered.

Something moved in the bushes behind me. Everybody felt it, startled out of their dreams. Mestre Pastinha gently placed his finger to his lips requesting silence. The bushes rustled again and I felt goosebumps on my flesh. The contorted demons from the dragon/volcano were about to snatch my soul. They were the blood-sucking capoeiristas, the materialization of the misunderstanding and mistrust among ourselves, the expression of my own fears in all its forms, and they were creatures of the madness of this confused world. Confronting this evil frightened me. I was almost fainting when the student who was my son brandished his berimbau like a sword, clearing the area of the demons with its cutting sound. It was a fierce fight. The demons did not give up easily. For each assault my son defended by playing a richer rhythmical variation. I was useless, completely dead with fatigue. My son was fighting Capoeira for the life of his master and for his own life too. He was sweating, totally concentrated on playing. Daylight came at last and dispersed the devilish creatures. Peace settled on the battlefield.

One of the faceless students cried frantically at my son. “I hate you, I hate you!” Mestre Pastinha asked him, “Why hate your brother? He was brave enough to protect his master against evil.” He answered, “Because I wanted the glory of fighting the demons and he took my place instead.” With these words, his face assumed its real guise and I recognized him as the one nicknamed “Envy.” He could not learn Capoeira well because he would not free himself of the craving to be recognized, always insecure and jealous.

Mestre Pastinha handed me the last day’s drink. Its sweet contents reminded me of the brew mulher barbada. We walked towards the mountains through beautiful forests and meadows with colourful flowers and birds. The scents and beauty of the place kept me going even though I never was so tired in my entire life. I frequently lost sight of the surroundings because I was envisioning another dimension of Capoeira, a spiritual side of the art that broadened my perception. My journey into this realm lasted hundreds of years, through lifetimes of many masters.

Picture source:

8 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Capoeirista in Your Life

24 12 2007

Christmastime capoeiraHappy Holidays!  With the season now upon us, have you found something for everyone on your list?  Yes, you say?  Oh, except for one person, you say?  That one person for whom you have no idea what to get, except maybe something to do with that crazy Brazilian capo-whatsit they do because it’s all they ever talk about?  Well, look no further!  Even if they already have copious amounts of abadas, t-shirts, street wear, and DVDs, by the end of this post, you’ll have a handy list of ideas for what to get for the capoeirista in your life (or, as a treat, for the capoeirista in you)!

1. A Book about Capoeira

If a capoeirista isn’t thirsting for water after a hard day’s workout, they’re probably thirsting for more knowledge about capoeira. Believe me, learning about it beyond moves and techniques adds infinitely to your experience of practicing capoeira. A good place to start would be Nestor Capoeira’s The Little Capoeira Book, or Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game (Newsflash! –> A second edition of Little Capoeira Book comes out this Boxing Day!). For those already with some base in the knowledge, history, or philosophy of capoeira, consider A Street-Smart Song: Capoeira Philosophy and Inner Life, by the same author. Note that these books are about capoeira-its history, philosophy, relevance, social implications, role in society, growth, development, key figures, ideals-and not principally written in order to teach the reader how to do capoeira. Although there are books out there that focus on the latter, I would say books such as Nestor Capoeira’s are a better choice, as presumably the capoeirista is already learning moves from their academy classes, and the style of movements in a particular book may not match the style of the student’s grupo, so it might not be very practical for everyday training. Of course, an exception to this is when the technique book has been authored by your grupo, as recently became the case for anyone in Capoeira Brasil.  Still, a book like this would mostly be ideal for someone dedicated enough to use it in addition to the training they already get within class.

2. This Book about Capoeira

I highly recommend Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, by Bira Almeida (Mestre Acordeon), and don’t think the recipient already owning one of the books recommended above should bar you from getting them this one, which is why I listed it as a separate item. As someone put it to me, this book is a “friendlier read” than Nestor Capoeira’s work (though I have only read Roots and a bit of Street-Smart Song to date, so I’m basing my opinion off that), more unassuming and with less of a bias/agenda showing throughout the writing. There are some beautiful stories in here, as well as good writing and a generous helping of song lyrics and their (English) translations, which helps with the Portuguese!

3. Capoeira Music

Nothing helps with learning a song more than being able to listen to it over and over (and over and over and over) again in one’s own home or car. (And if the CD comes with a booklet of lyrics, even better!) If the person you are thinking of already owns all your grupo’s CDs, help to expand their horizons and get them a CD recorded by another mestre or grupo. Or if you’re in a regional group, you could get them a CD from an angola group, and vice versa. Alternatively, the person might enjoy some Brazilian dance (e.g. samba, xaxado, coco de roda) or general Brazilian music (e.g. Sergio Mendes, Caetano Veloso) instead!

4. Capoeira Artwork

On a list floating around the Internet titled “You know you’re capoeira-crazy when…”, one of the listed criteria was “…when all your hard drive space is used up because all of the capoeira pics and videos.”  Well, there’s a reason for that! Whether it’s printed onto our clothes, sketched inside our notebooks, inked into our skin, or floating across our computer monitors, we just seem to want to soak up capoeira wherever we go! With that, a nice painting or drawing of an image or scene to do with capoeira would be ideal for anyone who is into the sport. (Warning: You may want to hold off of any life-sized portraits of people unless you know the person is that devoted to a particular figure…)

5. Make It Personal

If you want to make someone really happy, give them something to do with their apelido. It can be as loud and clear as a stuffed animal for Gato, or as subtle as a charm-embellished notebook for Mariposa. Artwork would be a hit in this case, too. We all fail what my friend christened the “capoeira nerd test” at some level, and getting a thrill out of anything that highlights our personal capoeira identities is just one great way to do it!

6. Teach Them Something You Can Do

Offer to spend a day or several sessions solely helping someone learn or perfect one of their goals that you’ve achieved and would be able to help them with. A cool floreio movement might be ideal for this. Alternatively, you could help them with learning songs, or music. Offer to teach them how to play the pandeiro or atabaque, how to arm and play a toque on the berimbau, or teach them more advanced rhythms and variations on any of the instruments. This gift is useful, long-lasting, hopefully will be paid forward, and would definitely be greatly appreciated (I know I’ve been dying to learn how to play maculele on the atabaque since forever, and the first person to successfully guide me into a correct au amazonas will be my god[dess]).

7. Portuguese for Dummies

This one is pretty self-explanatory! Any Portuguese-learning book, even a good Portuguese-English/English-Portuguese dictionary, will eventually become useful for anyone who wants to seriously pursue capoeira into higher and higher levels-or anyone who just wants to know exactly what it is they’re belting out loud in front of 30 people every roda!

8. A Holiday Rasteira (alternatively, a Festive Vingativa or Yuletide Tesouro)

Because that’s the greatest gift of all-learning from experience!

Picture Source: http://www.cdol.co.uk/homepage_gfx/bbc_ident.jpg