What is Capoeira?
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, music, and dance. It was created in Brazil by African slaves by mixing the many fighting styles from many of their tribes, sometime after the sixteenth century.
Participants form a roda, or circle, and take turns either playing musical instruments, singing, or ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The sparring is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, takedowns, and with extensive use of leg sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Less frequently used techniques include elbow strikes, slaps, punches, and body throws.
Music is integral to capoeira. It sets the tempo and style of game that is to be played within the roda. The music is composed of instruments and song. The tempos differ from very slow (Angola) to very fast (são bento regional). Many of the songs are sung in a call and response format while others are in the form of a narrative.
Capoeiristas sing about a wide variety of subjects. Some songs are about history or stories of famous capoeiristas. Other songs attempt to inspire players to play better.
Some songs are about what is going on within the roda. Sometimes the songs are about life or love lost. Others have lighthearted and playful lyrics. Capoeiristas change their playing style significantly as the songs or rhythm from the berimbau commands. In this manner, it is truly the music that drives capoeira.