Leetal Besouros: Empowering India’s street children with capoeira

Leetal Besouros is an initiative by the students of Centre for Capoeira India to empower street children with the wonderful art of Capoeira. Currently the project is being run at a children’s shelter called, Vatsalya, in Mumbai. Enjoy this interview with Parikshit, the founder of the project!

You can connect with Leetal Besouros on their Facebook page.

Please briefly describe the setup of the project – how many kids? Who gives the classes? How are Leetal Besouros integrated with Capoeira India?

The project Leetal Besouros is conducted at a children’s shelter called ‘Vatsalya’. This shelter is for kids whose families cannot afford to raise them. Currently there are 50 children and young people in this shelter, out of which 35 train in Capoeira. Classes are 90 minutes long and are held every week on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. We are all students of Instrutor Baba from Centre for Capoeira India, and three of us usually conduct class along with 14 others who help with music and general functioning of the class. We have a system wherein we all take turns to go. For example, I go every Saturday whereas other students like, Chico and Popeye go on Sundays. We occasionally have international guests come down and run classes with them as well. Some of the international guests have been Mestre Chicote of CDO Paris, Prof. Piolho of CDO Paris, Mestre Edan of CDO Israel, Contra Mestre Cueca of CDO Israel.

What’s the history – How did the Leetal Besouros project get started?

This is a project that I’ve been thinking of ever since I started practicing Capoeira, which was way back in 2006. Capoeira changed my life and perspective completely! I wanted to share the joy I felt in Capoeira with everyone around me – and I felt one of the best places to start with was with children. Open them up to a new culture, a completely new activity. I had identified an institution even back then, but was daunted by the task. First, I did not know if I’d be able to sustain such a project alone. Second, was I qualified enough to teach? In 2010 I did the Landmark Education’s SELP program which gave me a solid structure to start this project. I realized this need not be an individual project, but rather a project for the entire Capoeira India Community. Instrutor Baba was very supportive of the idea and I was able to enroll 18 volunteers from our class to start this project.

What is the reality of daily life for the kids you teach?

These kids were sent to Vatsalya by their families because they can’t afford to take care of them. Vatsalya takes good care of their basic necessities on a day to day basis, providing basic education and extracurricular activities. But these kids crave affection – a lot of it that they probably have not received from their families. Most of their parents are labourers, servants and cleaners. In India, these jobs do not pay very well. When we go to take class, they always come running to us and hug us tight, holding on to us, wanting to hold our hands. It often gets very emotional for me.

What do the kids most enjoy about capoeira? What do they find most difficult?

They love absolutely everything about Capoeira! They love to do ‘stunts’ or acrobatics and the floreios. The great thing about these kids is they want to be pushed to the limit of their abilities. So they never stop trying till they actually get the movement. They love singing the songs as well. They find clapping in rhythm the most challenging aspect of capoeira.

What is the effect of capoeira on their lives?

They fight a lot less with each other now. Physical altercations used to need as little as a nudge to the other person and a fistfight would break out. The structure we’ve set up is that if anyone fights or uses abusive language during the week, he doesn’t get to participate in that week’s class. That’s proven to be a great incentive for them. Plus the physical abilities they’ve accumulated while practicing capoeira have opened up new opportunities for them like TV advertisement modelling. In fact, one of the kids, Perna Longa, has just finished shooting his part for a kids’ film that’s releasing next year. The shy kids have become expressive and the hyper ones have become more relaxed. They are slowly understanding the concept of working with each other rather than against each other.

How can people help support Leetal Besouros?

We need Capoeira gear for the kids. Instruments, pants, t shirts. Used pants, T-shirts, instruments are also welcome. If you would like to contribute gear, you can contact me at cabecacdo@gmail.com. If people want to contribute to the Vatsalya Foundation (where these children live), I have attached a Word document with bank details so you can send funds directly to the institution. Please send an email to thevatsalyafoundation@gmail.com once you have made a transfer to let them know the details. They can track it better that way.

In search of the perfect capoeira group…

Source: Portal Capoeira

One day, a mother who used to play capoeira went to look for the perfect capoeira group for her son. On the first corner she saw a gym with a big poster advertising capoeira classes. When she went in, there was a stairway up to the second floor, where the capoeira classes were held. The stairway was all decorated with photos and banners with pictures of shirtless, muscular men doing flips or splits, and for the most part with facial expressions that looked like they were either angry or in pain.

The mother thought, “This capoeira is different from the capoeira I used to play, but maybe it’s because I’m many years out of practice and all this represents the evolution of capoeira…” When she reached the class, the mother noticed that there was one person giving class to many others, and very loud and fast music was playing. The people were all in line, facing a muscular man with his clothes full of logos, as though he were a human advertising banner. This man also ran the class with loud shouts, orders, and an intimidating voice. The mother thought, “This capoeira is different from the capoeira I used to play, but maybe it’s because I’m many years out of practice and all this represents the evolution of capoeira…”

The mother patiently waited for the class to end and then went to speak with the teacher. She started off by asking, “What style of capoeira is practiced here? I’m looking for a good group for my son.”

The teacher, with a wide and friendly smile, took a drink of a famous energy drink (the same brand as the logos on his uniform) and said: “We practice modern capoeira here – a more agile capoeira that is stronger, more beautiful, and above all very efficient as a martial art. Have you ever heard of Anderson Silva, the UFC champion?” Before the mother could respond, the teacher continued, “So as I’m saying, capoeira today is even in the vale-tudo ring and we teach everything here. You can relax, because here your son will learn to be a man. I’ll accompany him closely, teaching him from our group’s official handshake to the best finalization techniques in rougher games. We’ll definitely straighten him out, and he’ll be ready to face any situation on the streets.”

The mother politely thanked the teacher for the explanation and said goodbye, but as she walked away the teacher said, “And when are you going to bring your son to sign him up? Be careful, because the capoeira groups in this area aren’t good. Ours is the best for him, because we have many branches throughout the world. Plus, I’m a Physical Education professor…”

The mother, who couldn’t be silent any longer, politely asked for a minute of the teacher’s attention. She sat down with him in a corner and asked, “Teacher, what’s your name?”

He replied, “I’m known in the rodas as ‘Xicara sem alça’ (cup without a handle)”

The mother said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Xicara. I want to thank you again for the explanations, but I have no intention of signing my son up here. I can imagine how a crooked nail feels as it receives hammer blows to straighten it out… of course, if the nail could speak, it would say ‘Ow! Ow! It hurts!’ – and since my son can speak, it would interrupt you with your shouts.”

“About the technical efficiency for fights, I don’t think that’ll be necessary for him, because I’ve taught my son that the best way to deal with conflicts is through dialogue. As incredible as it seems, I learned this with a capoeirista named Joao Pequeno de Pastinha, but you most likely don’t know him, because… this capoeira here is different from the capoeira I played, but maybe it’s because I’m many years out of practice and all this represents the evolution of capoeira.”

The mother continued: “I’d like to find a group for my son that could teach him how to live in the midst of diversity, and here you tell me that even the handshake is standardized. I want a group in which my son can develop his individuality within the group and above all BE HAPPY… When I saw the way you teach, I realized that you know the techniques of Physical Education – because I’m also a P.E. teacher – however, I think that the method practiced here does not fit with the ancestrality of capoeira, since it kills autonomy and diminishes the students’ power of creativity and reason.”

“Therefore, professor ‘Xicara,’ I recommend that you study more about capoeira and the old Mestres, and only afterwards try to find out which Physical Education method would be best for fulfilling our ancestral duty with capoeira.”

The teacher “Xicara sem alça” was silent, still perplexed with everything that he had heard from this simple mother. The mother said goodbye with a happy smile, wishing the teacher a good day and making one last request – that he seek out the older capoeiristas and try to learn from them what it means to BE a capoeirista, because the main objective of capoeira, as a human practice, will always be to bring happiness to its practitioners, regardless of styles and marketing formats, because if this modern capoeira represents evolution, I’m afraid of what it will be in the time of my grandchildren.


This little story, although fictional, illustrates well the conflicts in capoeira these days. We need to be careful not to reinforce the “oppressor” that is being created internally, due to our traditional training and business.


Mestre Jean Pangolin


“Stones in the path? I keep them all; one day I’ll build a castle… ”

Nemo Nox


Jean Adriano Barros da Silva
Tel: 55 71 8109 2550 / 3363 4568 / 3366 4214
75 9168 7534 / 75 3634 2653
Bahia – Brasil

“I challenged all the tough guys” – Mestre Bimba, 1973

Interview with Mestre Bimba
Originally published in the Goiânia Gazette, in 1973
Source: Campo de Mandinga blog

Mestre Bimba, tell us where you came from, your full name, and your story.

My father was named Luis Pereira Machado, my mother was Maria Martinha do Bonfim, and my name is Manoel Reis Machado. Many people ask me, “Why Mestre Bimba?” I don’t like to tell. Some people believe it’s because of a fight – because in Salvador around 1900, when I was born, “bimba” also meant beating – but it’s not. My mother had 25 children, and I was the last. They say I was a very fat baby. My mother made a bet with the midwife that I was a boy and the midwife said that I was a girl. So, to find out if I was a boy or a girl, since I was very fat, they opened my fat legs to check and found my “bimba”!

I worked as a carpenter and also on the docks, around 1918. I could carry 120 kilograms. I met a Capoeira Angola mestre in those days. There’s capoeira angola, and there’s capoeira regional, which I created. He was called Betinho. He was the son of two africans, I am a grandson of Africans. So from that point on, I learned capoeira angola and I eventually created regional.

How was capoeira seen in those days?

In those days, when capoeira was spoken of, it was in whispers. Those who learned capoeira only thought about becoming criminals.

Being tough was in fashion?

It was fun. Have you ever imagined how it was, for those people, to stab others in the belly with the fish-knife? …but anyway, there are people who think that capoeira is a falling fight. So from 1918 to 1936, I, Mestre Bimba, challenged all the tough guys and won: The longest fight was one minute and two seconds. Then my life changed. I abandoned my work at the docks, I abandoned everything, and took another course in life.

What’s the fundamental difference between capoeira regional and capoeira angola?

The only good thing the capoeira angola players had was their courage. So what would happen? A 12-year-old or 15-year-old kid – or even a 20-year-old – when he learned how to fight, in those days, the tendency was to buy a gun or knife. So this means that it wasn’t a sport. And the person who took Brazil’s capoeira out from the nails of the police, besides God, was me…

In other words, Mestre Bimba, capoeira angola was the style that put a razor on the end of the berimbau?

Well done. You said it.

Did you have a deep knowledge of capoeira angola before creating regional?

I taught capoeira angola for ten years. Then I started to teach regional. And I started to earn money. But I’m a poor man. I have a lot of friends, though. The richest men of Bahia passed through my hands. If I were to list all their names, it would take the whole afternoon.

With so many good people, giving classes even to Governors (which you did, didn’t you?), how is it that you had to leave Bahia due to financial problems?

This is what happens in Bahia: if you show up and ask for [financial] help to throw a party, a Carnival festival, or anything having to do with partying, it’s good. But if it’s to cure, to teach, to help an academy, and for the good of the people, you can’t find resources.

How many capoeira groups are there in Bahia?

I can’t even count them. At first there was just mine, and now there are around 38.

Do you think that the invasion of tourists is ruining Bahia?

When I put on folkloric shows in Bahia, I was always highly praised. But now, these days, there is a lot of falsification. Capoeira is a fight for men (and also for women, it depends). But in order to make money, “Capoeira of Love” has even been invented. The woman lies down, and the man flips over the palm of her hand, and they grab each other and roll away… I wasn’t the one who taught that.

The music used in capoeira – perhaps because it’s based on the berimbau – seems boring and repetitive. Is this really true?

The berimbau has eight toques (rhythms). In one roda, one, two, or eight toques may be played… in other words: it’s not an instrument that has the range of a guitar and other instruments. But it’s satisfying. The rule is one berimbau and two pandeiros.

Did maculelê come from capoeira, or did it originate separately?

No, maculelê has nothing to do with capoeira. The legend of maculelê came from the Indians who lived in Brazil. One tribe fought with another. So, there was a hero in one tribe who won the battle with two pieces of wood. Hence the name: Maculelê.

There are some variations of samba: Samba-Duro, Samba-de-Roda… What are these sambas like?

Samba-de-Roda (Samba in a Circle) is only done with women, with girls. Samba-Duro (Hard Samba) is a takedown samba, a batuque samba – it’s rougher. It’s a samba for men, it’s dancing and knocking the other guy down. Samba-de-Roda, if you’ll excuse me, is just for the girls to shake their hips.

There’s a large African influence on all the musical and dance traditions of Bahia. Are there also Portuguese and indigenous influences on Bahian folklore?

In addition to batuque and these versions of samba, there was something called Rancho Feliz, which no longer exists and was absorbed into the folklore. So all that was created by the women fit for samba. It was from those women that Samba-de-Roda was learned.

Mestre, there’s a French dance that developed around 1650, called “Savata.” Is there any similarity between that dance and capoeira? It’s also both a dance and a martial art, and uses the feet and the hands as in capoeira – although it doesn’t use any musical instruments. Could this “Savata” have influenced capoeira?

I don’t think so. Because Savata was created by foreigners, and capoeira by Brazilians. There are similarities, but it has nothing to do with capoeira. It’s just a coincidence.

Is there any capoeira in Angola today?

There was never capoeira in Angola. There are two writers from Rio de Janeiro who say that capoeira came from Africa. But no. It was created in Brazil, in the slave quarters, on the plantations, where the blacks worked. So that when they were pursued by the so-called “Captain of the Bush” [the official sent to recapture runaway slaves], they defended themselves with kicks and sweeps. In theory, that’s the legend of capoeira, which existed in 1918 when my father created the Dance-of-Batuque and I created capoeira regional.

This is a different topic. There has been much commentary lately about the “deformation” of the city of Salvador, mainly because of tourism and the construction of highways, opening of avenues, etc. They even say that some houses caught on fire just after the city decided to open a new road through the area. What have you observed about this problem?

Frankly, I don’t know much about that. The only thing that I saw happen was the fire at the Mercado Modelo, which they say was traditional in Bahia. Every year the government wanted to build something there, until finally it ended up catching fire.

What do you think of Caetano Veloso?

Frankly, I have nothing to say about him. He works in one area and I work in another.

You said earlier that you’d left Bahia for financial reasons. How is your condition here?

I was brought here to Goiânia by Professor Osvaldo de Souza, who was my student and is like a son to me. I’m leaning on him and waiting to be helped by the authorities here. So I’m enjoying the good land – to say it better, I’ve never seen more beautiful women! The girls here are great! My God, why am I so old?!

My future is here in Goiânia. My wife received the responsibility of Caretaker… they call it “Spirit-Mother” – but the real name is Caretaker of Charm. There has never been a candomblé here in Goiânia and I want to create one. My wife is the best Caretaker of Bahia. Many people who can’t be cured by doctors are often healed in candomblé. Because it could be a problem of the spirit. Sometimes a person has a haunted life, an inconsistency with things, has a hard time getting up, and nothing they do is successful… so with prayers and other things, my wife can save this person. Is my wife beautiful? She’s gorgeous! I’m black but she’s lighter-skinned.

My future here in Goiânia is to teach. Capoeira, Samba-de-Roda, Samba-Duro and Batuque, which no longer exists in Brazil. These are the things I want to do.

Mestre Moraes: Capoeira without prejudice

Mestre Moraes
President and founder of GCAP – Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho
Masters’ in Social History, Federal University of Bahia

I’d like to try to pass on to you all of my concerns about the theme I’m bringing to the table regarding the issue of “bullying” in capoeira.

We know that, in the various African cultures, giving a name to a child when he or she is born is the motive for ceremonies that merge with the assuming of a particular position. The giving of a name means maintaining the relationship of ancestrality between the child and his/her predecessors.

From the African ports, the slave trade has been removing the names of Africans. It was a strategy for denying identity, denying the relationship that this child, man, or woman had – with baptism. It would be better if it was called a ceremony or any other name besides baptism, because the term “baptism” itself is a colonizer. With the arrival of these Africans in the Diasporas, this practice of name removal was continued. The objective was that they would remain unknowns in the new world, with no possibility of contacting their relatives. Continue reading

Why sing Paraná ê?

Written by Formada Ana Marley & Manuel de Querino
Translated into English by Shayna McHugh

Source: Capoeira Santista

Much of capoeira’s philosophy and history is recorded between the lines of its songs, not forgetting that part of this history is linked with that of Brazil. This is why it’s important to research and question the meaning of some songs, since their main purpose is to pass on a message, whether immediately or for later reflection.

So we are going to talk a little bit about the historical content within one of capoeira’s most popular songs: Paraná ê. It refers to the War of Paraguay, but what was this war?

It began in 1865 and lasted five years. At the time, Paraguay was the only country in Latin America that could be considered independent, and it found itself in full industrial development, with weapons and gunpowder factories. Unproductive land was being transformed into state plantations, generating employment for the whole population.

Impeding the process of Paraguay was a big challenge for England, because Paraguay became a big competitor in productivity. Brazil and Argentina, on the other hand, were interested in taking possession of parts of Paraguayan land.

The spark that initiated the war occurred on November 24, 1864, when Paraguayan president Solano López cut ties with Brazil, captured the Brazilian ship Marques de Olinda, and invaded the state of Mato Grosso (which, together with Paraná, are the only states that border Paraguay).

At the end of all the battles, the Paraguayans took the worst casualties. 75% of the country’s population was killed; of 800,000 inhabitants, only 194,000 were left. With this victory, England once again returned to economic domination of the region, and Brazil and Argentina managed to take 140,000 kilometers of the land they wanted.

But what about the slaves? How did they enter the War?

The whites “logically” didn’t want to be on the front line of battle, so they created a law saying that blacks who entered the war and returned alive would win their liberty. What the whites didn’t anticipate was that the majority of the blacks who went… actually returned!!

The slaves had an advantage thanks to capoeira, because at the time, battles depended more on hand-to-hand fighting than on weapons. So, on their way back, on the margins of the Paraná River, the now ex-slaves sang:

Vou dizer à minha mulher, Paraná
Capoeira que venceu, Paraná…     [Venceu a guerra]
Paraná ê, Paraná ê, Paraná.
Ela quis bater pé firme, Paraná        [Ela = a guerra]
Isso não aconteceu, Paraná…

I will tell my wife, Paraná
That capoeira won [the war], Paraná
Paraná ê, Paraná ê, Paraná.
It [the war] wanted to stamp its foot hard, Paraná
This did not happen, Paraná

Despite the tragedy for Paraguay, the war was an important milestone in the life of slaves in Brazil. Because of this, it is commemorated to this day in ladainhas and corridos throughout the country.

From Manuel de Querino’s “Bahia of the Old Days,” written in 1916

During the war with Paraguay, the government made use of a large number of capoeiristas – many by free and spontaneous choice and a great number voluntarily constrained. And the efforts of these defenders of the Country were useful in the battlefield, mainly in the bayonet assaults. The proof of this is in the brilliant weapons work practiced by the platoon called “Zuavos Bahianos” during the assault on the fort of Curuzú, where they disbanded the Paraguayans and bravely drove in the national flag.

Cezario Alvaro da Costa, a capricious and well-behaved man, was not a professional, but a competent lover of capoeira. He marched from Bahia to the south as a corporal in the squadron of the seventh battalion of army hunters. He began to distinguish himself during the first encounters with the enemy, and was recognized by his superiors. He gradually rose until he reached a high rank.

One day, after combat, Cezario da Costa found two Paraguayans and faced them bravely. After fierce battle, helped by what he knew of bayonet fencing, he managed to defeat the adversaries. This act of bravery, together with others he had previously shown, led him to be promoted and given special honors. This officer passed away in Bage, Rio Grande do Sul, in the rank of captain.

Antonio Francisco de Mello, a native of Pernambuco, followed the campaign in the position of first cadet sergeant assistant in the ninth battalion of army hunters. He was not just a simple lover of capoeira; he also possessed a pronounced tendency towards a professional fearlessness. This definitely harmed him, delaying his promotion despite possessing certain personal importance and training. The opinions written by the commanders in the biannual records, the book that evaluated the behavior of lower officers, were not favorable to him. Cadet Mello used loose pants, a flashy hat with a band, and had that ambiguous manner of those who understand mandinga. Francisco de Mello was part of the contingent on board the warship Parnaíba, in the memorable battle of Riachuelo, about which the commander of the ship stated:

“The contingent of the ninth battalion acted as expected of Brazilian soldiers. Enthusiasm in the act of boarding, valor and brave effort in the hand-to-hand fighting engaged in with the enemy, exceed the highest praise.”

After this action, cadet Mello was promoted and received awards. He remained in the campaign until the year 1869, when he returned to Brazil and was added to the fifth battalion in Rio de Janeiro. He used to keep watch at night, making a review every hour. Whoever was lacking in the review marched for two hours on the next day. He was the only official who could restrain the wild soldiers on payday. He was promoted to captain, and passed away in one of the Northern States. I bring these two examples to prove that capoeira is useful in certain occasions.

Top Five Capoeira Song Lyrics Sites

These five sites give lyrics to hundreds and hundreds of capoeira songs, from both angola and regional/contemporânea. Some even have sound clips so that you can listen to the melodies. Take a look… then get out there and sing in the roda!

  • Pequeno Cancioneiro de Capoeira Angola: Hands-down the most comprehensive songbook I’ve found thusfar for capoeira angola. 83 pages of ladainhas and corridos from Mestres Moraes, Valmir, Cobrinha, Joao Grande, Roberval, Janja, Lua Rasta, and others – compiled by a member of Capoeira Angola Raíz in Costa Rica. It includes the author of each song, if known, and the CD where the song can be heard.
  • Capoeira Music: This site’s mission is to cherish the music and songs we all love, show our appreciation to all the Mestres and Compositors that created the music and to spread the art of Capoeira. They are continually adding new songs to the database.
  • 159-page songbook: Compiled by Espaguete of Bantus Capoeira, this book contains over 380 songs (and English translations) gathered from various sources on the internet. Also contains a pronunciation guide and a few great articles on musicality and spirituality in capoeira!
  • Lyrics from the old Mestres: Galho’s page gives lyrics for many older CDs that were not produced with liner notes, such as the recordings of Mestres Bimba, Pastinha, Waldemar, Paulo dos Anjos, Canjiquinha, Traíra, Noronha, Eziquiel, and Caiçara.
  • Capoeiralyrics.info: Just lyrics – plain and simple
[important]Still not enough lyrics for you?
Then check out The Capoeira List Lyrics Links for dozens of other links to lyrics sites.[/important]

Mestre Moraes’ Blog

Mestre Moraes is the founder of GCAP (Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho) as well as an English professor and social historian. He was an extremely important part of the revitalization of capoeira angola in the 1980s. On his blog, Mestre Moraes posts song lyrics, thoughts about capoeira, and more. In Portuguese.

Some of my favorite posts:


Music in Bahia’s Capoeira Angola

Capoeira is more than just a sport to which music is indispensable. It is also a philosophy of life, rooted in fundamentals that speak of freedom and knowing oneself.

Capoeiristas are also musicians, for they sing and play the berimbau, caxixi, pandeiro, agogo, atabaque and reco-reco. The melodies can be rhyming prose, or songs with or without refrains.

Colorful names like samba-de-roda, corrido, ladainha, chula, oracoes and bendicoes describe the interplay of voices that go with the interplay of movement by participants in a capoeira roda.

[important]Click here to download Music in Bahia’s Capoeira Angola.[/important]

Source: Texts from Brazil n.14, produced by the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil.

Capoeira Angola Ritual Circle Performance

Written by Rosa Maria Araujo Simões

We generally observe, in the discourse and teachings of angola mestres, some emphasis on the preservation of tradition and the fundamentals of Angola-style capoeira. Among these we would highlight, as examples, respect, justice, humility and patience.

All of these virtues can be seen in full bloom in the organization of the ritual (the capoeira circle, or roda) in which considerable pains are taken to reproduce the specific knowledge and language characteristic of the Angola style of capoeira. Let us now join the circle…

“…practically every object, every gesture, song or prayer, or slice of space and time is accepted on faith as something other than itself. It is more than it appears to be, and often, quite a lot more.”  – Turner, 1974:29

[important]Click here to download Capoeira Angola Ritual Circle Performance.[/important]

Source: Texts from Brazil n.14, produced by the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil.

La Capoeira – 1963

Short documentary produced by french television in 1963 (audio in french). It shows Mestre Pastinha and his students (among them, Mestre João Pequeno) playing capoeira in a beach that seems to be Itapoan’s Lighthouse (Salvador). Mestre Pastinha plays berimbau, while Mestre João Pequeno sings and plays capoeira with Mestre Waldomiro Malvadeza.

Posted on YouTube by teimosia