Oct 26 2011

What types of songs are sung in capoeira?

Capoeira songs fall into four main categories: ladainhas, chulas, corridos, and quadras.

Capoeira angola uses ladainhas, chulas, and corridos. Mestre Bimba’s capoeira regional used primarily quadras and corridos. Capoeira contemporânea uses primarily corridos, though some groups use ladainhas and chulas when playing to the angola toque on the berimbau.


The word “ladainha” means “litany.” It is a long solo with no chorus response; the ladainha begins the roda. During it, the players do not play; they remain crouched and listening at the foot of the berimbau. The ladainha may be sung by one of the players who is about to enter the roda. In some groups, only the berimbaus (and sometimes also the pandeiros) play during the ladainha; the other instruments join in during the chula/louvação. The ladainha typically recounts history, tells a myth, or transmits a message. They can range from only a couple lines to over 20. Some examples:


Iê, maior é Deus (2x) Iê, God is great (2x)
Pequeno sou eu I am small
Tudo que eu tenho, foi Deus que me deu God gave me everything I have
Na roda de capoeira In the capoeira roda
Grande pequeno sou eu, camaradinha I am a great small person, comrade


Iê, a história nos engana History deceives us
Diz tudo pelo contrario It tells everything contrary
Até diz que abolição Even that the abolition of slavery
Aconteceu no mês de maio Occurred in the month of May
A prova dessa mentira The proof of this lie
É que a miséria não sai Is that the misery doesn’t go away
Viva vinte de novembro Long live November 20th
Momento pra se lembrar A moment to remember
Eu não vejo no treze de maio I see nothing in May 13th
Nada pra comemorar Nothing to celebrate
Muitos anos se passaram Many years passed
O negro sempre a lutar The black man always fighting
Zumbi é nosso herói Zumbi is our hero
Do Palmares foi senhor He was the ruler of Palmares
Pela causa do homen negro For the cause of the black man
Foi ele que mais lutou It was he who fought the most
Apesar de tanta luta Despite so many battles
O negro não se libertou, camará The black man was not freed, comrade.



Louvação means “praise.” The louvação immediately follows the ladainha and consists of single lines sung by the leader followed by a chorus response, which repeats the leader’s line beginning with “iê” and ending with “camará.” The louvação can be as few or as many lines as the leader wants.

The lines of the louvação vary depending on the message that the leader wants to send, but it is usually praise or tribute to a geographical location, a historical person or saint or orixá, the group’s mestre/lineage of capoeira, one or both of the players, etc. Below is an example of how the louvação might progress (chorus response in blue):


Iê viva meu Deus Long live my God
Iê, viva meu Deus, camará Long live my God, comrade
Iê viva meu mestre Long live my master
Iê, viva meu mestre, camará Long live my master, comrade
Iê quem me ensinou Who taught me
Iê, quem me ensinou, camará Who taught me, comrade
Iê menino é bom The boy is good
Iê, menino é bom, camará The boy is good, comrade
Iê sabe jogar He knows how to play
Iê, sabe jogar, camará He knows how to play, comrade
Iê capoeira Capoeira
Iê, capoeira, camará Capoeira, comrade
Iê vamos embora Let’s go
Iê, vamos embora, camará Let’s go, comrade


Corrido comes from the word “correr” (to run). These are the call-and-response songs sung while two players are playing in the roda. As with any of the other song types, the leader may sing traditional verses or may improvise them in order to comment on the game or give instructions to the players. An example (chorus response in blue):


Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict
Eu vou jogar meu barco ao vento I’m going to set sail
Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict
Buraco velho tem cobra dentro Old holes have snakes inside
Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict
Quando vê cobra assanhada When you see an angry snake
Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict
Não meta o pé na rodia Don’t stick your foot in its path
Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict
Cobra assanhada morde An angry snake bites
Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict
Se eu fosse cobra, eu mordia If I was a snake, I would bite
Valha-me Deus, Senhor São Bento Help me God, Lord Saint Benedict


Quadras are four-line stanzas that Mestre Bimba sang to replace the ladainhas of capoeira angola, since they didn’t fit with his personality or with the rhythm of his toques. They are rarely used in today’s capoeira. An example:


A iúna é mandingueira The iúna bird is clever
Quando tá no bebedôr When perched on the water fountain
Foi sabida foi ligeira It was smart and quick
Mas capoeira a matou, camará But capoeira killed it, comrade