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Berimbau Rhythms and Game Styles
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Berimbau Rhythms

There are many traditional and contemporary rhythms of the berimbau that exist, and each Capoeira school uses particular rhythms for their own training purposes. Though many of the same rhythms are used by different Capoeira schools, the names, rhythm speeds, and game styles of the rhythms vary by school. Even the notes of each rhythm may vary slightly from school to school. Common rhythms trained in Capoeira schools are Angola, Benguela/Banguela, Regional de Bimba (São Bento Grande de Bimba), and São Bento Grande de Angola.

Angola

Learn how to play Angola on the berimbau

Angola is a slower-paced rhythm generally used to accompany what is known as Capoeira Angola, the traditional form of Capoeira that was later given this title to distinguish it between Mestre Bimba's style known as Capoeira Regional. Most groups, however, refer to the game simply as Angola. In traditional Angola schools, the Angola rhythm is played by the gunga, while the médio and viola play the São Bento Pequeno de Angola and São Bento Grande de Angola rhythm respectively. In most contemporary schools only Angola is used during the Angola roda, but some schools use São Bento Pequeno de Angola as an intermediary rhythm to build speed from Angola to the generally faster São Bento Grande de Angola. The Angola rhythm usually begins with a ladainha, a dramatic solo that serves to open the roda. Ladainhas can be both instructive and narrative, and typically end with a canto de entrada (“song of entry”) that pays tribute to renowned Capoeiristas, historical places, and respected mestres such as Mestre Pastinha. The Angola game is generally considered to be most like Capoeira in its earliest and most historical form, incorporating elements of malicía (trickery or treachery) that reflect the deceptive relationship between slaves and their owners. In his essay, Capoeira—an Introductory History, Mestre Acordeon, a well-known Capoeira authority and one of Mestre Bimba's students, describes characteristics of the Angola game as featuring “a high degree of combat simulation in which the mere suggestion of an attack should be acknowledged; a focus on rituals, strategy and tactics of the game; and an emphasis on playfulness and theatrics of the movement.”

Angola in training

Angola is recognized as representing traditional Capoeira. Contemporary Capoeiristas quickly find they must be well-versed in the Angola game if expected to keep up with the skillful creativity of experienced Angoleiros. The unrefined, often “sloppy” appearance of Angola movement is an intentional deception that veils strategic and spontaneous attacks. In contemporary training, Angola can be used to develop malícia, train a closer game, and be educated in traditional philosophies that are not always focused on in contemporary styles.

The Angola game

Angola is a game of mock respect where players often dodge a kick with the intention of turning it into a counter-attack. The Angola game in itself serves as a method of teaching where Capoeira came from and what it might have looked like in its raw form. Angola movements are very fluid and are generally slower and lower to the ground than in other games; however, the underlying characteristic of all Angola movements is malícia—a slow starting Angola game often masks sudden attacks to come.

Benguela/Banguela

Learn how to play Benguela/Banguela on the berimbau

Named after an Angolan port used during the Brazilian slave trade, Benguela/Banguela is a rhythm that was created by Mestre Bimba in part to help his students deal with the malicía of the Angoleiros. The game is a type of jogo de chão (a game using mostly ground movements) that traditionally abides by the guidelines of Capoeira Angola, while sometimes incorporating characteristics of the São Bento Grande de Angola game. According to Mestre Acordeon in his book Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, Mestre Bimba would play the Benguela/Banguela rhythm after the intense jogos of his São Bento Grande rhythm to “cool down the heat of the jogos.” Though the rhythm's notation varies from group to group, the basic notation is similar to the Angola rhythm played at a medium pace.

Benguela/Banguela in training

Benguela/Banguela is used as an intermediary rhythm usually played between the Angola and São Bento Grande de Angola games. The game focuses on malicía and creativity without the incorporation of traditional rituals and theatrics found in Capoeira Angola. It is played at a medium to fast pace and is often used as a method of training technical kicks, take-downs, cunning sweeps, and fakes. Benguela/Banguela helps to develop malícia and to practice an effective reaction to an opponent's attacks and style of movement. In training, Benguela/Banguela can be used as a “game of learning” where players can allow an opponent to get inside their guard in order to train reacting appropriately with a deceptive counter.

The Benguela/Banguela game

The Benguela/Banguela game is a close, fluid game that focuses on communication between players. Players make an effort to fit movements together by consciously reacting to one another. The fluidity of movement demonstrated in the game is best described as a set of gears; as one gear turns, the other reacts, leading to harmonious movement. The bulk of movement in the game include fakes, ground acrobatics, and balança movements. The game is also very technical, focusing on completed movements that integrate skillful malicía.

Regional de Bimba (São Bento Grande de Bimba)

Learn how to play Regional de Bimba on the berimbau

Created by Mestre Bimba, the rhythm many Capoeira schools know as Regional traditionally embodied the Regional style that Mestre Acordeon, in his book Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, says was introduced by Mestre Bimba “in reaction to the sloppy street Capoeira of the twenties.” In his school, Mestre Bimba would play the rhythm to train the martial aspects of Capoeira after having his students perform the sequência, a series of “eight combinations of attacks and defenses,” that probably served as preparation for the game's intensity. Though there was no singing during the game, Mestre Bimba would call out corrections to the players and would tell his students, “When you strike a martelo, kick to break your own foot; when you throw a galopante, punch to break your hand; and when you throw someone with the head to the floor, do it to make a big hole in the cement.” Mestre Bimba called this rhythm and its corresponding game São Bento Grande, however, some refer to it as São Bento Grande de Regional to differentiate between the more common São Bento Grande de Angola rhythm. Today, the Regional rhythm is often used to develop speed and precision, training an upright fighting style that reflects Mestre Bimba's original purpose of the rhythm.

Regional in training

Regional is essentially the “fight” of all Capoeira games. In many schools, the Regional rhythm is played after the Benguela/Banguela game or occasionally in the middle of a São Bento Grande de Angola game when a sudden outbreak of aggression might call for a quick switch to Regional. In training, the game is used to develop the martial aspect of Capoeira, focusing on the “pé quente e cabeza fria” mentality, meaning to practice performing aggressive movements while keeping a cool head.

The Regional Game

The objective of the Regional game is to perform quick golpes traumatizantes (traumatizing strikes) while reacting to the attacks of an opponent. It's important, however, that the harmony of the game is never lost to simple stand-up fighting. The game is generally played at a medium to fast pace and is marked by upright movements, take-downs, cunning sweeps and strong defenses. Acrobatic movements are not customary, but can be performed at a player's will, assuming he is prepared to risk a counter-attack.

São Bento Grande de Angola

Learn how to play São Bento Grande de Angola on the berimbau

Generally the fastest and most widely known and agreed upon rhythm in the Capoeira community, São Bento Grande de Angola embodies elements of each of the different Capoeira games. Features of the São Bento Grande de Angola game used in contemporary Capoeira schools include ground techniques, fast kicks and dodges, deceptive take-downs, and various kinds of acrobatics, making it an ideal game for beginning students to experience many of the different types of movement found in the games of Capoeira. The São Bento Grande de Angola game can also include a demonstrational aspect to the game, often referred to as voador (flyer), that gives individual Capoeiristas the opportunity to perform solos that focus on aerial acrobatics. As one of the most common rhythms of the berimbau, São Bento Grande de Angola is usually the designated rhythm for the batizado event as well as the primary rhythm used during a roda where other Capoeira groups participate. The rhythm is named after the Catholic Saint Benedict and is most often recognized as São Bento Grande de Angola, a name that it was given to distinguish it between Mestre Bimba's São Bento Grande rhythm. In the traditional Angola roda, the São Bento Grande de Angola rhythm was played by the viola berimbau.

São Bento Grande de Angola in training

São Bento Grande de Angola is the most common rhythm played by contemporary Capoeira groups and is the primary rhythm used during batizados. Because of the wide variety of movements allowed in the São Bento Grande de Angola game, all other Capoeira games are typically played to “build up” to the speed and exhilaration of this game. The São Bento Grande de Angola game is often used as the showcase for demonstrational rodas because it allows players to exhibit all categories of movements and talent. It is often sped up at the end of a roda or demonstration to provide a climatic and energetic finish.

The São Bento Grande de Angola game

The São Bento Grande de Angola game is a very fast, open game that shares aspects of all other games in its fluidity, theatrical style, acrobatics, aggression, and expression. It is best described as “modern Capoeira” as it incorporates a contemporary style of Capoeira that invites creativity and change in movement. Movements that are most unique to the São Bento Grande de Angola game include take-downs, crossing kicks, quick ground movements, aerial spinning kicks, and aerial acrobatics.

Learn More

- History of Capoeira
- Mestre Bimba
- Mestre Pastinha
- Capoeira Music
- The Berimbau
- FAQs
- Capoeira Basics
 
 
 
 
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