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In Capoeira, the Berimbau commands the jogo (game), it sets the tone for what type of game you are going to play based on the melody and speed. Over its development, toques (berimbau rhytmns) have been developed. The toques are separated into three categories; traditional, angola, and regional. There are seven toques created by Mestre Bimba and most associated with Capoeira Regional. 

It is essential to practice the berimbau and to learn the toques for any and all Capoeiristas for the following:

  1. Being attuned to the berimbaus melody and speed with help you in the roda and how you play

  2. It allows you to fully participate in the roda by being able to switch out and help put fresh players in and keeping the energy up.

  3. It is an instrument that not only has you develop a foundation, but also helps with improvisation to bring your own flavor in the roda.

O que é o Berimbau?

Here we will break down the berimbau and all its components:

O que é o berimbau?

o que é o berimbau?
uma cabaça, arame e um pedaço de pau
o que é o berimbau?
uma cabaça, arame e um pedaço de pau
olha como é gostoso tocar berimbau
uma cabaça, arame e um pedaço de pau 
como é gostoso tocar berimbau
uma  cabaça, arame e um pedaço de pau
o le le o la la
o le le o la la
o le le o la la
o le le o la la

  • Verga: This the backbone of the berimbau and is usually 4 to 5 feet long.

  • Cabaça: This is a resonator that determines the tone of the berimbau based on the size. It is made from an opened, dried and hollowed out gourd-like fruit. The cabaça and the verga are the two most important determinants of a good sounding berimbau. It is attached to the verga and the arame by a string.

  • Baqueta/Vaqueta: This is the stick used in striking the aramé to produce the sound of the berimbau. It is often made of the same wood used for the verga.

  • Aramé: This is a wire string made of metal usually harvested from an old tire, however back then it was the intestines of an animal. After the cabaça and the verga, the aramé is important as a rusty one would harshen the sound.

  • Dobrão or Pedra: Dobrão is a large coin traditionally the colonial coin. The Pedra is a smooth stone or rock.

  • Caxixi: This is a shaker or rattle. It’s usually filled with seeds of ticum, seashells or even little pebbles. The outside is made of woven strips of wicker.

Role in Capoeira

The person playing the Berimbau is usually also the singer and leader of the roda. He or she sings and plays the berimbau accompanied by the other instruments. The other instruments must follow the Berimbau’s lead as it changes the pace and style of the game: In other words, the berimbau player is the cantador and should be the root of the roda.

*Remember that certain songs are describing the game and/or how it should be played

Toques for a typical roda:

  • Sao Bento Grande de Angola: When the berimbau plays the rhythm of Sao Bento grande de Angola the capoeiristas play a more cooperative game composed of more fluid movements and floreios.

  • Sao Bento Grande de Regional: When the toque is Sao Bento Grande de regional, the game becomes more confrontational and the spirit of fight, physical skill, and intuition is invoked.

  • Benguela: For the toque of Benguela the game becomes more tactful, strategic with malicia at a slower pace. A calm game without physical contact, combining elements of angola and regional, including floreios

  • Angola: This toque is the basic tone of an Angola game. The games are at varying speed using a lot of malicia and cunning. A ladainha is usually sung to this torque.

There are three key sounds produced by the berimbau

  • Open note: This is produced by striking the aramé just below the position of the dobrão. The dobrão is completely off the aramé.

  • Buzz note: This is produced by sticking the aramé while the dobrão is barely touching it.

  • Closed note: this is produced by sticking the aramé when the dobrão is fuly pressed against it.

Berimbau Practice

This part contains various arrangements of instruments for practice. When you first start playing the berimbau, the best part to learn first is the medio part (so you can play along with the main gunga part).

In this video, just the gunga is playing. Here’s what the gunga part looks like:

In this video, just the medio is playing. Here’s what the medio part looks like:

In this video, both the gunga and medio are playing. Here is how both parts look:

To accompany this, you would play the viola part. This is also a good track to practice your singing!

Capoeira Rhythms

Angola w/ Variations - Unknown Artist
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Iuna - Mestre Bimba
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Benguela w/ variations - Unknown Artist
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Idalina - Mestre Bimba
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Amazonas - Mestre Bimba
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