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Oct 28 2011

Lecture on Mestre Pastinha and Capoeira Angola

These are my notes from a lecture given by Mestres Bola Sete and Gildo Alfinete
at the Brazilian Capoeira Angola Association in Salvador, on October 25th, 2006. 

Mestre Gildo Alfinete began the lecture by showing some photographs of Pastinha from his personal archives, pointing out the umbrella hanging from Pastinha’s arm in many of them. He said that Pastinha carried an umbrella with him wherever he went, rain or shine, to be used as a weapon in the case of an emergency. (Interesting note: Mestre Decânio, in The Heritage of Mestre Bimba, says that Bimba did the same thing!)

Mestre Gildo dispelled some of the besteiras (stupid things) that some people say about Mestre Pastinha, such as that he did not play the berimbau or sing – he did. There is also some confusion on the relationship between Pastinha and Canjiquinha, with some saying that the latter taught the former, which is completely wrong. Pastinha taught the capoeirista Aberrê (Raimundo Argolo) from 1910-1912; Aberrê was Pastinha’s first student and later became very famous; he frequented rodas in various places, used a navalha (straight razor) and was very respected. Aberrê then taught Canjiquinha.

Pastinha discovered Canjiquinha in a roda on the Baixa dos Sapateiros, liked his game, and asked him who his mestre was. When Canjiquinha responded that his mestre was Aberrê, Pastinha took in Canjiquinha and made him contra-mestre of the bateria. Aberrê was also the person who brought Pastinha back to capoeira (Pastinha was inactive from the years 1912-1941) by bringing him to the roda at Gengibirra, where the general consensus of mestres passed the command of this roda to Pastinha.

Pastinha had his students wear a uniform so that the capoeira group would look like an organized practice. The colors were black and yellow, which were the colors of his favorite soccer team, Ypiranga. He even had a quarrel with Paulo Silva, the man responsible for officially registering Pastinha’s center in 1952, because Silva wanted to change the colors to white and red – the colors of the Botafogo soccer team.

Pastinha taught his students one by one, with the others watching. His bateria, from the right to left (when sitting in the bateria) consisted of three berimbaus, 1-2 pandeiros, a small atabaque, agogô, and reco-reco.

The reason Pastinha was abandoned by his students in his last years was that his last wife, Dona Alice, was extremely hard to get along with, and drove Pastinha’s students away. 

Mestre Bola Sete added a few general observations on the state of capoeira angola: that today some people are saying that capoeira angola is non-contact, when in the old days the games were really rough. As for the people who wore all white in the roda, the point was not to avoid touching them and dirtying their white clothing – the point was to TRY to dirty their clothes, and they were so good in escaping all the blows that their clothing remained impeccable! Also, in Pastinha’s academy each of the students had a different, unique style of playing; today many angoleiros are all playing the same way.

Mestre Bola Sete called capoeira Brazilian since it arose on Brazilian soil, although its roots are African. He also explained that the term “angola” did not arise, as some claim, in the 1930s in order to differentiate the traditional capoeira from Bimba’s style. We find the term “capoeira de angola” in manuscripts from 1920 and earlier. The “angola” referred to the fact that the practitioners of capoeira were mainly Africans from the Angolan region.

Finally, Mestre Bola Sete advised that there should be no rush to learn the mandinga of capoeira; it is something that comes to the capoeirista naturally, and with time.