Music & Dance

Music is an essential part of Capoeira, fulfilling multiple roles: it gives energy to the players, directs the speed and style of the game in the roda, and orally transmits information and knowledge.

Typically the music is a mix of instruments and singing. The rhythm is controlled by a berimbau. Capoeira instruments are disposed in a row called bateria. It is traditionally formed by three berimbaus, two pandeiros, one atabaque, one agogô and one ganzá. The berimbau is the leading instrument, determining the tempo and style of the music and game played. As the capoeiristas change their playing style, it sets the game's speed, style and aggressiveness, it is truly the music that drives a capoeira game.

The speed and rhythm of the instruments tells the players whether to play more cooperatively or more competitively, whether to use close ground maneuvers or fast acrobatic movements.

Many of the songs are sung in a call and response format while others are in the form of a narrative. Capoeiristas sing about a wide variety of subjects. Some songs are about history or stories of famous capoeiristas. Sometimes the songs are about life or love lost. Others have light hearted and playful lyrics. Other songs attempt to inspire players to play better by commenting on the game or by giving the players instructions. The song leader might also improvise lyrics to speak specifically about the capoeiristas or the situation in the roda.

Finally, capoeira songs represent a rich oral tradition. Their lyrics express much history, philosophy, and wisdom, often through metaphors.

Dances include Samba de roda, a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance and musical form, considered a primitive form of modern Samba, that has been associated with capoeira for many decades; and Maculelê, an indigenous armed fighting style, using two sticks or a machete. The modern version is a folkloric dance practiced with heavy afro-Brazilian percussion.