For those who have never seen Capoeira played, the roda (circle) is where everything happens. It is the climax of the art of Capoeira. At the head of the roda is the orchestra consisting of three berimbaus, two pandeiros and one atabaque. The berimbau is a mono-chord instrument from Central Africa, it dictates the flavor and speed of the Capoeira game inside the roda. This lead instrument can play over 10 different traditional rhythms with countless variations. The berimbau’s unique acoustic sound is accompanied by the atabaque, a drum much like a primitive conga. The atabaque is the heartbeat of the Capoeira roda and is accentuated by the pandeiro (tambourine).
The Capoeira orchestra is completed by the chorus, the ring of voices echoing from the roda in a call and response style song lead by one of the Capoeiristas. Capoeira songs tell of the art’s powerful history, stories of legendary mestres, and of playful anecdotes. These stories, true and legendary alike, are colorful, inspiring, funny, and sometimes sad. Above all, Capoeira songs illuminate the intensity and vision of the art. Songs are sung in poetic, rhythmic Portuguese, Capoeiristas of all races and ethnicity are inspired to learn the language.
Ladainha (Litany) is sung at the beginning of the roda. Poetic, metaphorical and sung in quartain format, it usually takes the form of a cautionary tale or legend. It is the moment of maximum internal concentration when the two players are kneeled at the foot of the berimbau – it is a prayer/oration made by the capoeirista. The singer recounts a history or myth, passes a message to the listeners. During the singing of the ladainha all attention is focused on the Ladainha.
After the ladainha, the singer salutes and pays tribute to God, the ancestors, to his fellow capoeiristas, and amongst other things makes prayers and requests. Chulas (Praise) give praise and thanks to any combination of paramount figures in capoeira, mestre’s present and past, historical figures, the people tha are present around the berimbau forming the roda and God. The louvação begins the call and response section of the roda. The louvação invokes God, Mestres, capoeira, and gives thanks. This section are also called “Chulas. “(Italicized line is the chorus)
Iê, Viva meu Deus
Iê, Viva meu Deus, camará
Iê, Viva meu meu Mestre
Iê, Viva meu Mestre, camará
Iê, quem me ensinou
Iê, quem me ensinou, camará
Iê, a capoeira
Iê, a capoeira, camará
É Água de beber
Iê, Água de beber, camará
É ferro de bater
Iê, ferro de bater, camará
The content of the louvação can be improvised as well, so having a good ear is critical to singing the chorus. The louvação, just as the ladainha, is strophic, but there is no variation in the melody from one louvação to another. However while it is most often sung in a major tonality, sometimes it can be heard in minor if the ladainha is also minor. The chorus is sung in unison, though an occasional harmonization, usually a third above, is sometimes used as a punctuation by one of the singers.
The players answer the singer, repeating each verse of the chula:It is important that during the ladainha and the chula, both Capoeira players wait at the foot of the berimbau, until it is allowed for them to start the jogo (game). The two players/jogadores having sat at the pé-de-berimbau, during the ladainha, begin the game at the start of the corridos.
The Chula Controversy
The term chula is often given to the call and response louvação immediately following the ladainha. By comparison, traditionally in Bahia the chula is the free form song text of the Samba de Roda sung between the dances (as in the samba parada) and defines the structures of the various other “styles” of samba de roda, while the samba corrido lasts as long as the singer feels like singing it before moving on to another. The chula is a poetic form based on the quadra (quatrain) form (which may have influenced Mestre Bimba’s replacement of ladainhas with quadras) with its roots in Iberia. The word chula is comes from the word chulo meaning vulgar, common, rustic (similarly the Spanish word chulo/chulito is used for peasant Indians in the Americas), being often pastoral and sentimental.
How the term chula came to refer to the louvação isn’t currently known. But its similarity to the ladainha and the use of corrido songs from the samba de roda tradition probably played a large role.
At the moment when the singer starts the corrido, the capoeiristas are ready to play. The corrido, like the chula, is a type of “call-response” song. The corrido, however, is characterized by a single repeated response for each song.
Corridos are generally chosen by the singer with the purpose of demonstrating what is occurring during the jogo or in the roda of Capoeira in general.
Mandei la um coco la no alto do coqueiro Ganga Zumba manda um coco pra quem sobe mais primeiro
Mandei esse coco do coqueiro do Quilombo Nego sobe mais ligero pra dar coco a o seu amor
The corridos are the overlapping call and response songs typical of African song. Many old corridos are borrowed from other Afro-Brazilian practices such as Samba and Umbanda. Additionally new songs explicitly referring to capoeira are constanly being created.
These a songs modified by Mestre Bimba. Quadras follow a set quadrain pattern of four verses and are used much like corridos with the chorus joining in after each refrain.
Iúna é Mandingueira
A iúna é Mandingueira
A iúna é Mandingueira
Quando tá no bebedô
Sabida foi ligeira
Mas a Capoeira matô,
Agua de beber
e..e Agua de Beber CAMARA!
Samba de roda
Performed by many capoeira groups, samba de roda is a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance & musical form that has been associated with capoeira for many years. The orchestra is composed by pandeiro (tambourine), atabaque (drum), berimbau-viola (berimbau with the smallest cabaça and the highest pitch), chocalho (rattle – a percussion instrument), accompanied by singing and clapping. Samba de roda is considered the primitive form of modern Samba.