Capoeira é Dança, Part 4: Xaxado

24 04 2008

Wild Wild…North

The lament of a mournful harmonica whistles phantomly through the air. The wind blows, and a single tumbleweed rolls across the dry, arid land. These are the badlands, the sertão nordestino, home of the notorious cangaceiros. Defenders of the poor, bane of the rich, these nomadic outlaws will live forever in the dance of xaxado.

Cangaceiro on the look-out

(Alright, so there was no harmonica and who knows about the tumbleweeds, but the rest of it is true!)

Xaxado is a lively folk dance associated with baião that originated in Pernambuco, Brazil (specifically in the regions of Pajeú and Moxotó), in the 1920s. Popularized by Luiz Gonzaga of forró fame and other northeastern Brazilian musicians, this dance comes to us from the adventures and exploits of the northeastern bandits known as cangaceiros (from the word cangaço, meaning banditry). With brash and energetic movements, xaxado enthuses with their “work hard, play hard” spirit and evokes life in the hard northeastern countryside.

XaxadoLampião and His Merry Men

One of the most famous cangaceiros and celebrated figures in Brazilian legend and history was Lampião, once called the “King of Cangaço”. Despite recent research stating otherwise, many believe that Lampião was specifically the person who created xaxado. Whether or not this is true, it is thanks to Lampião and his gang that xaxado spread throughout the lands, and its strong association with the northeastern cangaceiros and their exploits (such ambushing police “macacos”) remains to this day.

1, 2, Sha-sha-sha!

How did xaxado get its name? There are two main explanations. The first is rooted in onomatopoeia—more specifically, in the sha-sha sound of dancers’ dragging sandals or boots as they go through the dance. The second explanation attributes xaxado’s name to an old sertão war song or war cry, “Parraxaxá“.

Natural Rhythm

XaxadoOriginally, xaxado was danced to no instruments. Dancers sung to provide music, and rhythm was marked by the sounds of sandals dragging through earth and rifle butts hitting the ground. Then, xaxado was danced to the same instrumental trio as was originally used in forró: accordion (sanfona), triangle (triângulo), and zabumba (bass drum). Today, one can see xaxado performed with as many instruments as the original three plus bongos, flutes, and maracas. As for the songs themselves, they consist of lyrics with satire and aggression, reminiscent of how the cangaceiros must have viewed and treated life.

Tap Dance de Terra

Xaxado is usually danced in a line, a result of Native Brazilian influence, as opposed to more circular forms found in dances such as maculelê. Most modern-day xaxado performances are choreographed, and involve both women and men, although only men used to do the dance when it was first developed.

Dancers of xaxado wear old cangaceiro costumes while performing, which include (fake) rifles and bullet belts. The basic step involves putting the right foot forward and out to the side three or four times quickly while dragging the left foot behind, resulting in what one source describes as “a dragged out, slippery kind of tap dance.”

Click here to see other posts in Capoeira é Dança


Sources:

http://www2.uol.com.br/uptodate/glossae.htm
http://www.aquarela.com/Styles.html

http://bellsouthpwp.net/l/u/luiscnogueira/Learn_About_Brazilian_Dance.html

http://www.sambaolywa.org/whatissamba.htm

http://www.bellinati.com/publics/publics.html

http://www.musicabrasileira.org/zezoribeiro/

http://www.bellinati.com/compositions/compositions.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serra_Talhada

http://www.jornaldesafio.com.br/meio/xaxado.php

http://www.edukbr.com.br/artemanhas/folclore_dancas_xaxado.asp

http://www.recife.pe.gov.br/especiais/brincantes/ingles/5b.html

Picture sources:
http://www.filmreference.com/images/sjff_01_img0089.jpg
http://sarecife.vilabol.uol.com.br/Apresentacao1.html





Videos: Maculelê

18 01 2008

Dear reader, please play the following clips of maculelê performances for your viewing pleasure!

With grimas: 

With facãos: 

Maculelê roda:

Click here to see other posts in Capoeira é Dança





Capoeira é Dança, Part 1: Maculelê

17 01 2008

Welcome to Part 1 of Mandingueira’s newest series, Capoeira é Dança!  Maculelê has always been one of my absolute favourite things about capoeira since the first day I saw it (“That’s even cooler than the backflips!”), and I hope you enjoy finding out more about this spellbinding dance as much as I did!   

Myths and Legends

Maculelê may have been named for a village hero who single-handedly fought off an enemy tribe.Maculelê has its origins steeped in waters as murky as those which surround the origin of capoeira. Some say it came from Africa. Some say it came from indigenous Brazil. One story features slaves on a sugarcane plantation; another features two tribes at war. What is agreed, however, is that maculelê is a warrior dance—clashing blades, flying sparks, and heroic movements all blend together in a whirlwind performance against the pounding of hypnotic drums.

One of the most popular origin stories of maculelê attributes it to African slaves working on the sugarcane plantations in Brazil. The maculelê sticks were to represent stalks of sugarcane, and machetes the large knives used to cut them. Slaves, according to this theory, either formed the dance for entertainment in the fields or senzalas while resting between work, with the dance movements representing the motions of cutting sugarcane; performed it to vent their anger and frustration; or, like capoeira, practiced it as a form of self-defense disguised as a dance, later using the sticks, knives, and movements to protect themselves from physical punishment. Maculelê performances have also been known to use flaming torches in place of sticks or machetes; these represent the sticks some say slaves used to fight their “captains”, which were pulled, still burning, from the fire.

The other principal version of maculelê’s origins features a village hero, and there are variations even within this. As the story goes, all the men of a village went hunting and fishing one day, and left only one man or one boy to protect the rest of the village (i.e. women, children, and the elderly). An enemy village attacked, and the hero fought them all off with only a pair of wooden sticks he picked up off the ground. In some versions he dies in the attempt, but always when the rest of the village men return, they celebrate his bravery and spirit, creating the dance of Maculelê (possibly the hero’s name) in his honour. This story is said by some to have taken place in Africa, and one source goes so far as to give specifics: it was not one man, but 22, and they were from a village in Nigeria.

Maculelê

Finally, maculelê seems to be partly yet very strongly rooted in the indigenous culture of Brazil. Popular Brazilian legends tell the same tale of a sole man or boy fighting off an entire enemy tribe and saving his own, then being celebrated in the dance of maculelê. According to one, the battle was actually part of an ongoing conflict between two tribes, a warlike one and a peaceful one. The latter could not defend themselves against repeated attacks by the former, until during one attack, a young boy named Maculelê ran around with such ferocious energy holding two sticks in his hand that the warlike tribe never came back.

There is much talk of African culture having mixed with Brazil’s indigenous culture in the creation of maculelê, especially as the dance resembles some Brazilian aboriginal ones. A study by Manoel Querino, on the other hand, claims that maculelê was actually derived from the Cucumbi natives in Angola, whose battle traditions involved a “more elaborate and complex warrior dance” that “included group dance formations simulating actual combat”.

That’s it for how maculelê came to exist in the first place, but what happened after? How did this “dance of sticks” migrate from indigenous tribes, whether in Africa or Brazil, into the academies and performances of capoeira schools today?

All the World’s a Stage

Maculelê is performed as a popular part of many festivities in Santo Amaro.That would be thanks to one Paulino Alusio de Andrade, also known as Mestre Popo do Maculelê, in the city of Santo Amaro. Apparently, Mestre Popo first used the movements of this near-forgotten dance in the street, with a friend to attract the attention of women. Then, he gathered family and friends in 1943 in order to teach them maculelê based on his memory. He refined and revived it through a folkloric dance company called Conjunto do Maculelê de Santo Amaro, with the intention of reintroducing maculelê in local religious festivals. As a result, Mestre Popo is now considered by some to be the father of maculelê in Brazil.

If Mestre Popo is the father, Santo Amaro may well be the home. A city in interior Bahia, Santo Amaro is known for its African cultural heritage, which strongly includes maculelê. Incidentally (or perhaps not so incidentally), Santo Amaro is apparently also known for “the green of its sugarcane fields”. It’s not surprising then to hear that maculelê is supposed to have developed in the sugarcane fields of Santo Amaro, where the dance has been performed in local festivals for over 200 years. It is a leading number in the Nossa Senhora de Purificacao (Our Lady of Purification) festival every February, and plays a role in other religious and harvest festivities as well.

Although no one knows exactly how old maculelê is, the role it played in Santo Amaro is unmistakeable, with records such as the following newspaper obituary, published in O Popular, December 10, 1873:

“On the first of December the African Raimunda Quiteria passed away at the age of 110.  In spite of her age, she still used to cut the grass and sweep the front and back of the ‘Church of Purification’ for the maculelê festival.”

The popularity of maculelê declined after the abolition of slavery in 1888, coinciding with the death of great maculelê masters in the early 1900s, until it was revitalized by the efforts of Mestre Popo (purely for the tourism, one source claims). Now, the dance takes centre stage once again, especially among festivities in northeastern Brazil.

Maculelê performance by a capoeira grupo

As for maculelê’s association with capoeira, this supposedly began in the 1960s, through the students of Mestre Bimba. Many capoeira groups today incorporate maculelê into their schools due to its similar Afro-Brazilian roots to those of capoeira.

Dance this Dance

Maculelê dancers using machetes, or facãosMaculelê is immediately recognizable for its dramatic, expressive motions, high-energy performances, spectacular choreography (if applicable), and mesmerizing rhythms. The sticks, called grimas, were originally 24 inches long and 1 1/8 in. thick, but today have a range of 12-20 inches. Traditionally, grimas are made of biriba wood, the same used to make berimbaus. Maculelê knives, normally machetes, are called facãos, and they were traditionally around 40cm long (about 16 inches).

The dance is performed to a 4-count rhythm: for three beats, players strike their own sticks (or knives, or flaming torches) together in combination with expressive and athletic movements, and every fourth beat, partners strike their right-hand sticks together. Grass skirts are normally worn for performances, and sometimes bodies are painted. Although today many maculelê performances are choreographed and have dancers performing movements individually in straight lines, true maculelê is done in a roda just like capoeira is. Someone begins singing, then two people enter and begin to play. According to one source, the original basic step of maculelê was a “broken gingado” similar to that found in frevo, but through the years has been turned into “a hardened ginga with little swing”.

Maculelê by Grupo Abada CapoeiraMaculelê songs are sung mostly in Portuguese as well as in Yoruba, one of the languages spoken by the African slaves in Brazil. Songs can lament working in the sugarcane fields, celebrate the abolition of slavery, recall the bravery of the hero Maculelê, or evoke the battles of Brazil’s indigenous peoples. Up to three atabaques may be used for the accompanying rhythms, one of each type: Rum (large), Rum-pi (medium), and Lê (small). The rhythms usually associated with maculelê are the congo, afoxé, and barra vento.  Click here and scroll down for a list of maculele songs (with lyrics and English translations)!

Well, that’s it for Part 1, and I hope you discovered more about maculelê than you ever thought you would!  Unfortunately, I can’t list the sources I used right now as they’re bookmarked on my own computer and I’m posting this from a hostel in Morocco, but they will be added as soon as I return home!

Update:

Click here to read a transcribed/translated interview with Mestre Popo, the “Father of Maculelê”!

Click here to read other posts in Capoeira é Dança 

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Sources:
http://unterricht.vivastreet.de/unterricht-training+mannheim/capoeira-mannheim-auftrit-fotos
http://paulogualano.com/brazilian_show2.htm
http://www.carnaval.com/capoeira/
http://www.capoeirausa.net/home.html
http://www.capoeirasuldabahia.com.br/eng/default.asp?idp=23
http://carnavalderio-histoire.blogspot.com/2007/01/le-maculel.html
http://www.britannica.com/magazine/print?query=sensual&id=17&minGrade=&maxGrade=
http://www.capoeira.com.au/history.html
http://www.capoeirauniverse.com/how_to_play_maculele.html
http://capoeira.wikia.com/wiki/Maculele
http://gingartecapoeira.org/performances/afro-brazilian-dances/maculel%c3%aa
http://wikimartialarts.org/main/index.php/Maculele
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maculel%C3%AA_%28dance%29
http://www.maculelelondon.com/
http://www.worldartswest.org/main/location.asp?i=46
http://research.calacademy.org/research/anthropology/tap/ARCHIVE/1998/1998-10–maculele.html
http://www.capoeirabrazil.com.au/music.htm
http://www.capoeira.hk/e107/page.php?28
http://www.yourbestsiding.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=26

Picture sources:
http://www.achebrasil.com/photos/MaculeleEclilsonSmall.jpg 
http://www.capoeira.com.au/images/maculele.jpg
http://www.capoeirasuldabahia.com.br/eng/images/maculele1.jpg

http://www.capoeiracdp.com/img/fotos/maculele/04.jpg

http://cdodurinho.vilabol.uol.com.br/fotos/m_df_dg_pr/maculele_cdo.jpg

http://www.abadacapoeira.com/2006/aliyah.2.jpg





Capoeira é Dança: New Series!

10 01 2008

You hear the distant pounding of an atabaque, and your heart begins to beat in time. You approach further, and the strains of a single berimbau call to you. Finally, your ears pick up the frolicking jingle of an accompanying pandeiro. You squeeze past the crowds, excitement rising—but wait! What’s this? That’s no ginga! Where are all the acrobatics? And—did she just spin?

Capoeira é DançaYep. You, my friend, have just stumbled upon a fine showing of samba de roda, one of the many Brazilian or Afro-Brazilian dances associated with doing capoeira. Be prepared to stumble upon many more, as we go through afro, xaxado, coco de roda, and maracatu, just to name a few!

Where did they come from? What do they mean? How are they done? Who were the first to dance this dance, and why?

Welcome to Mandingueira‘s newest post series: Capoeira é Dança! You know all about capoeira’s background; now learn about the other half of the show. Look out for the first instalment coming soon, starting with my personal favourite:

“Pula menino, que eu sou Maculelê!”

Picture source: http://www.hotellagoaemar.com.br/foto.balefolc1.jpg

Capoeira é Dança: Archives

Part 1: Maculelê
Part 2: Puxada de Rede
Part 3: Forró
Part 4: Xaxado

Videos:

Maculelê
Puxada de Rede
Forró
Xaxado