Although I believe that all capoeiristas should eventually learn Portuguese and read these texts in their original language, I also believe it important for information about capoeira to be accessible to everyone. My goal in translating these works into English is to enable those capoeiristas who are not yet proficient in Portuguese to read and ponder the words, thoughts, observations, and insights of Mestres and others.
There is naturally some editing involved in the process of translation, but I have tried my best to preserve as much of the original text, wording, and punctuation as possible.
E-mail me if you have questions, comments, or corrections on the translation. I hope these readings help you in your capoeira journey. Muito axé, camaradas!
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The Heritage of Mestre Pastinha
Mestre Pastinha was known as “the philosopher of capoeira” because of his great wisdom about the art and about life in general. In this book, Mestre Decânio comments on selected passages from Mestre Pastinha’s manuscripts. This is not the easiest read – it requires careful reading and meditation – but Pastinha’s words will give you much food for thought about the ethical and spiritual aspects of capoeira.
The Heritage of Mestre Bimba
This book is rightly known as “the Bible of Capoeira Regional.” In it, Mestre Decânio shares his insights from several decades of training with Mestre Bimba. This book contains everything from a training guide to the basic movements of regional to a section of parables from the life of Mestre Bimba. It is a tremendously valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand the original capoeira regional as practiced and taught by Mestre Bimba.
The Joy of Capoeira
Mestre Canjiquinha (1925-1994) was a student of Mestre Aberrê. A true showman and student of African-Brazilian culture, Canjiquinha’s performances (which included capoeira, samba de roda, puxada de rede, and maculelê) were among the most well-known in Bahia. In this book, he shares his perspective on capoeira and life with all its joy and suffering.
Pequeno Cancionero 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.
The Berimbau-de-Barriga and its Toques
Kay Shaffer’s 1977 research on the berimbau is an essential read for anyone who wants to learn more about the main instrument of capoeira. This work explores the origins of the berimbau-de-barriga and its history in Africa and Brazil. It also provides detailed information about the fabrication of the instrument and examines various other types of musical bows. Perhaps the most interesting part of this work is the extensive notation of berimbau toques as played by Caiçara, Canjiquinha, Bimba, Waldemar, and others.
Talking About Capoeira
Mestre Decânio is the oldest living student of Mestre Bimba, and one of only three students to whom Bimba gave the title of “mestre.” Mestre Decânio covers a variety of topics in Talking About Capoeira – the history of capoeira regional, the physical practice of capoeira movements, the capoeira “trance,” the unique character of capoeira in Bahia, capoeira’s African aesthetic, and the different types of songs.
Mysticism in Capoeira
This booklet (author unknown) discusses the mystical aspects of capoeira, focusing on the differentiation between sacred and secular space in the roda and the world. It also explores music as a key component in the energy of capoeira, with descriptions of the roots of each instrument in the bateria and line-by-line explanations of the philosophies contained in over 20 common capoeira songs.
Interview with Mestre Lua Rasta
Mestre Lua Rasta, a student of Mestre Canjiquinha, talks about his upbringing and his journey in capoeira. He discusses politics, discrimination, street capoeira, and the commercialization of the art. Mestre Lua Rasta is known for his street roda held every Friday night in the Terreiro de Jesus, in the Pelourinho section of Salvador.
Interview with Mestre Suassuna
A lengthy conversation with Mestre Suassuna about the growth and development of capoeira, the game of miudinho that he invented, and capoeira’s styles and toques. Mestre Suassuna, together with Mestre Brasíla, formed the group Cordão de Ouro in 1967. He is also well-known for his energetic singing.
Angola, Regional, or Contemporânea: Which is Yours?
Rui Takeguma of the F.A.C.A. (Anarchist Federation of Capoeira Angola) offers an in-depth exploration of the three main styles of capoeira: angola, regional, and contemporânea. He traces the origins and history of each style with insight into the political, social, and economic factors that shaped the development of capoeira in the 20th century.