Music is in integral part of Capoeira. It sets the rythm, the style of play, and the energy of a game. Without music there can be no jogo (game) and no roda (circle in which the game of capoeira is played). The continuous call-and-responce between the chorus and the soloist creates a circle of musical energy, which complements the game and keeps everyone involved.

Musical instruments

Berimbau

The berimbau is a single-string percussion instrument from Brazil. The berimbau’s origins are not entirely clear, but there is not much doubt on its African origin, as no Indigenous Brazilian or European people use musical bows, and very similar instruments are played in the southern parts of Africa. The berimbau was eventually incorporated into the practice Capoeira, where it commands how the capoeiristas move in the roda.

The berimbau consists of a wooden bow (verga: traditionally made from biriba wood, which grows in Brazil), about 4 to 5 feet long (1.2 to 1.5 m), with a steel string (arame: often pulled from the inside of an automobile tire) tightly strung and secured from one end of the verga to the other. A gourd (cabaça), dried, opened and hollowed-out, attached to the lower portion of the verga by a loop of tough string, acts as a resonator.

To play the berimbau, one holds it in one hand, wrapping the two middle fingers around the verga, and placing the little finger under the cabaça’s string loop, and balancing the weight there. A small stone or coin (dobrão) is held between the index finger and thumb of the same hand that holds the berimbau. The cabaça is rested against the abdomen. In the other hand, one holds a stick (baqueta: usually wooden) and a shaker (caxixi). One strikes the arame with the baqueta to produce the sound. The caxixi accompanies the baqueta. The dobrão is moved back and forth from the arame to change the tone of the berimbau. The sound can also be altered by moving the cabaça back and forth from the abdomen, producing a wah-like sound.

Berimbaus are split into three categories:

Gunga: lowest tone
Médio: medium tone
Viola: highest tone

These categories relate to sound, not to size, although the size of cabaça for Gunga is the largest, while it is smallest for Viola. The berimbau’s quality does not depend on the length of the verga or the size of the cabaça, rather on the diameter and hardness of the verga’s wood and the quality of the cabaça.

Atabaque

The atabaque is a tall, wooden, Afro-Brazilian hand drum. The shell is made traditionally of Jacaranda wood from Brazil. The head is traditionally made from calfskin. A system of ropes are intertwined around the body, connecting a metal ring near the base to the head. Wooden wedges are jammed between this ring and the the body and one uses a hammer to tighten or loosen the ropes, raising or lowering the pitch of the drum.

Pandeiro

The pandeiro is a type of hand frame drum, very similar to a tambourine. It is held in one hand, and struck on the head by the other hand to produce the sound. Typical pandeiro patterns are played by alternating the thumb, fingertips, heel, and palm of the hand.

Agogo

An agogô (meaning gong or bell in Yoruba) is a single or multiple bell now used throughout the world but with origins in traditional Yoruba music and also in Samba. The agogô may be the oldest samba instrument and was based on West African Yoruba single or double bells. The agogô has the highest pitch of any of the bateri­a instruments in Capoeira.

In ABADA Capoeira, bateria consits of three Berimbaus (Viola, Medio and Gunga), one atabaque, two pandeiros and one agogo.

There is a predetermined sequence in which Capoeira music starts. It starts with the main instrument – Berimbau, namely Gunga, then Medio, Viola, Atabaque enters, then pandeiros, then agogo, and finally clapping commences.