How did you begin capoeira?
I started capoeira very young; I don’t remember exactly when, because in that era we played capoeira more for fun. Today capoeira is a business, and everyone wants to make money. In the old days, people played on Sundays and holidays in Mestre Waldemar’s roda. I was a student of Mestre Pastinha, but I went to rodas on Pero Vaz Street and other places. I still play capoeira, I play instruments, sing, and teach. I’m going to be 70 years old soon.
Are you proud of being a student of Mestre Pastinha?
Of course, I’m very proud. One time, after the mestre had already gone blind, I brought my students to make a roda in his academy here in the Pelourinho. Afterwards I asked him how he liked the roda. He said it was very good. I stood far away from him and asked if he could see me. He said he could make out my figure. Even so, he played capoeira by touch.
So I told him: “Mestre, wherever I go, you can be sure that your name is being spread.” I also enjoyed being a student of Mestre Waldemar. I learned the berimbau rhythms with him. I was curious, and wherever there was a good mestre, I got close to him in order to learn something. This is why, thank God, I’ve traveled to almost twenty first-world countries, which is something that very few mestres here in Bahia have done.
What was Mestre Pastinha’s philosophy in that era?
Mestre Pastinha was a philosopher. He was a friend, a comrade. To him, everyone was a capoeirista. When a person showed up, he would say, “You’re also a capoeirista. If you like capoeira, you’re a capoeirista too.” He was my second father. We had a great friendship. I rooted for the Bahia soccer team, and he rooted for Ypiranga. Once I won a bet with him based on a soccer game. He was very popular and very simple. He was the best friend I had in my life. He was systematic: he taught us the rhythms, the names of the rhythms, what they were used for; I was willing to learn all this.
Do you remember the name of any rhythm that Pastinha created?
No. He told me that there were seven rhythms in capoeira, but that we could create rhythms on the berimbau. He called these improvised rhythms. In capoeira itself, there are seven rhythms.
Do you think that foreigners really like capoeira?
They adore it. They say to me: you have to come here again.
Where is your academy?
On the Largo do Tanque. Many mestres have gone there: Mestre Burguês, Mestre Amém… everyone knows my academy. I travel a lot, so when I’m gone I have a professor teach classes. I have graduated students teaching in France, Argentina, the U.S., etc. The whole world knows me. I’m a small seller, a driver, but none of this made my life better like capoeira did. I’ve gone to twenty countries.
Leave a message.
I say the same thing as Mestre Pastinha, who said that he would die, but only in the flesh; the spirit remains. Today, if I was young – ten or twelve years old – I would want only two things in my life: to study and to play capoeira, in order to take capoeira to the whole world.