Archive for the Capoeira nuggets Category

Masculinity and Capoeira (i.e. Why guys like to kick other guys in the face)

Posted in Capoeira nuggets with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by testcapo

Written by Alex Kane

I’m a pretty passive guy, but for some reason, I kind of like kicking people. And I don’t think I’m alone. I’ve tried to ignore that weird little beef-steak section of my brain that gets thrills from battle. But for the past six months, capoiera has been bringing kicks-to-the-head to my cerebellum.
Without delving too deep into evolutionary psychology, I’m going to take Barry McCarthy’s stance that my testicle-intertwined “warrior” brain has grown to actually flourish in combat. My older brother might claim some credit for kicking my ass before dinner every night growing up, and the aggression-flooded media of my childhood gets a shout out. However, I’ll still throw my cord around my genes as the main culprit of my machoism.

I’m slowly accepting.
I leave capoeira class in pain.
My feet sting.
My thighs ache.
Some part of me is bruised and swelling. And all I can think about was that rush of ducking away from a flying heel and preparing to aim my next armada at Palhaço’s head. My mind mourns from relishing the violence that I philosophically disdain, but my ancestral warrior says, “Don’t be a PUNK! You were BORN to dodge kicks! Just shut up and enjoy it.”
And I do.

P.S. Although I feel like this issue is due more of the 100-page, graduate-thesis type explanations that it has received in psychology journals, my wife summed it all up as “you are guy” when I told her what I was writing about. I’ve tried to balance those two extremes of length. One crucial detail I’ve definitely left out though: we have chicas playing capoeira every week too, and I can attest to the fact that their genes are just as messed up as mine.

(in Archer, John’s Male Violence, 1994.)


3rd Tour of Duty: Brazil

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Updates! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by testcapo

A few months ago, Mestre Di Mola asked me to join him in Rio in the recording of Omulu Guanabara Capoeira’s 4th album. In all honesty, at first I wasn’t going to go. I have been to Brazil a couple of times and wanted to ideally wait another year before my 3rd return. I spent a lot of 2008 traveling within the US and abroad and I was looking forward to spending a summer of total relaxation. BUT, I checked ticket prices and it happened to be the one week of the Swine Flu scare and airline prices were LOW. Tickets to Rio were $550.

I had no excuses. I was going to Rio. It will be my 3rd tour of duty.

Palhaço was in summer school and he couldn’t miss any classes without getting kicked out so he had to stay home. I called up a couple of my girlfriends (also capoeira students) and in 24 hours we had our tickets.

Angela (Manga Rosa), Vicki (Sabeginha) and Me (Andorinha)

Angela (Manga Rosa), Vicki (Sabeginha) and Me (Andorinha)

So we were on our way to Brazil.

I was given no information about recording times, possible songs I was singing, or training times or locations. I had no information other than Professor Baiano’s phone number. That’s it. Hopefully he picks up…..

We finally got in touch with Baiano and were told to meet him at Cosme Velho to train a little bit with Mestre Preguica and Mestre Di Mola. As we get there we are greeted by all of the capoeira instructors from around Brazil. No students, just Instructors and Professors. And so it begins.

The training was excellent and as a capoeira teacher, it is rare to get to train with a group of fellow capoeira instructors. It was invigorating to challenge and to be challenged.

But I digress, This blog entry is about the music, let’s refocus on recording this CD.

A bunch of capoeira kids that joined us after training.

A bunch of capoeira kids that joined us after training.

After training, we head out to Barra Tijuca which is where the recording studio is located. It took us about an hour to get there. We were sweaty and hungry from training and seeing that we would only get started at about 10pm, it looked like it was going to be a long night.

…….And it was.An awesome night but one that kept us going until 5:30 int he morning. We recorded throughout the evening. Excellent songs, on point bateria, perfect. However, I still didn’t have the song that I was going to sing. Mestre Di Mola spoke of this ‘song’ throughout the evening but I still have yet to see anything. I was getting nervous but I have to have faith so I waited.

Finally around 2am I get the song. Baiano sings the lyrics and melody with me. For those that have heard any of  Omulu Capoeira Guanabara’s CDs you will recognize baiano’s voice immediately. He has a voice that stands apart from the capoeira crowd, it is incredibly operatic. One can easily consider him a prodigy. Simply said, he’s got vocals. As Baiano goes through the melody with me, I start to see that he is a stickler with details. He is a perfectionist and was not going to let me slide for a second. I get nervous. We decided that rehearsing at 3 in the morning was not going to get me anywhere. We finally finish at 5:30 am and it is at this point that I am reminded that I am not as young as I used to be.

Recording the 4th CD

Recording the 4th CD

Next day, I holed myself in my apartment in Ipanema. I practiced the song throughout the day. Later on I met up with Baiano and Indio. We hung out at Ipanema Beach and I, of course, continued to practice and sing. I had very little time to make this song not only sound good but also my own.

We met the next day to record. This time we met a little bit earlier because we needed to be finished in time to get to Lapa for the roda. This means that I cannot mess up because I will NOT be the one making Mestre DiMola late to his Lapa roda. We go through all of the songs and I was the last to go. I was ready.

A shot of cachaça settled some of my nerves and I was felling confident. Let’s do this thing.

BUT then Mestre DiMola flipped the script. He wanted Baiano and I to do a duet. Wait. What?? That is like trying to hang with Mariah Carey. So, ladies and gentlemen, it was time for my ‘A’ game. Take no prisoners. Let’s unleash the dogs.

It it turned into an experience that I will always remember. Signing with Professor Baiano forced me to push myself out of any comfort zone. He has got crazy vocals and an ability turn any melody into something that is absolutley poetic. It was truly a humbling experience but also one where I know that I let there be no boundaries on my own voice. It was then that I realized that I hold back quite a bit when I sing in the roda and I am not sure why. Singing with Baiano gave me license to unleash my own true ability.

The contributors of the 4th CD

The contributors of the 4th CD

And that is priceless.

Sometimes I wonder why I stayed with capoeira for such a long time. Sometimes I fell like capoeira is the boyfriend that I can’t break up with even though he can sometimes give me a huge headache. But then I am reminded. Capoeira brings me gifts. All the time. It brings me training with world classes mestres, recording CD’s, staying up till all hours of the morning with fellows capoeirstas signing capoeira songs and drinking chopp, dancing samba and pagode, and, of course, roda’s in Lapa.

Muito Obrigada, Meus Mestres, Rio, e capoeira!



Don’t get kicked in the face and other tips for beginners

Posted in Capoeira Etiquette, Capoeira nuggets with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by testcapo

by Trevor Gregg (Trovão)

Trovão, a veteran capoeirista, good friend and excellent writer, has come up with an excellent assortment of tips and advice for beginners. This is a must read for all capoeira beginners (especially with batizado on the horizon).

Batizado season is upon us.  Panicked and eager, beginners are crowding our rodas and academies.  Slightly off-beat clapping and mispronounced, mumbled lyrics ring in the air.  Gearing up for our own batizado, our instructors have been teaching a series of fundamentals workshops just to get the white-belts ready for their big day.  Aww, look at them doing their little cartwheels.  They grow up so fast!

Seeing beginners struggle, train, and play brings back vivid memories of my own long and difficult initiation in capoeira.  Making mistakes, and hopefully learning from them, is every initiate’s burden to bear.  I consider myself somewhat of an authority on beginner mistakes, not because I have any sort of talent or ability but rather because I’ve made nearly every mistake possible.  Many of them several times over.

A few things I’ve been taught, then, to help the next generation survive the coming months.

1)  When in doubt, do what the higher belts do.

Capoeira has few ‘rules’ per se, but makes up for it with a staggering amount of traditions, manners, customs, and obscure points of etiquette.  There are far too many subtle but important tenets to learn early on in one’s capoeira career, and there is certainly no definitive list of them.  What few customs are explicitly told to you as a beginner are but the smallest pile of snowflakes atop the massive iceberg.  The poor man’s solution, then, is to watch how the veteran capoeiristas behave, especially towards their ‘betters’.  Watch the way your instructor enters a roda when playing a mestre.  How do they buy in?  Do they show straight kicks, rasteiras? (Hint: no.)  Do they stop the game?  Throw palmas and elbows?  (Hint: No also.)  Pick a couple of high cords, pay close attention to them, and if they aren’t getting yelled at or kicked by the mestres chances are whatever they’re doing is ‘right’ and can be safely emulated.

2)  Escape, don’t flinch.

There will come a day when your instincts, sharpened by years of intense training and abuse, will serve you so well that a solid escape will be a completely natural response to any assault.  Whether it’s kicks in the roda, fly balls at the baseball game, water balloons, wild pumas, whatever, you’ll be such an excellent capoeirista that you’ll esquiva any and all attacks with grace and dexterity.  That day is probably not today.  Thus, you must make a direct and conscious effort not to just flail away from kicks and takedowns.  When another player comes at you, even if you’re surprised, do not flinch or flop around on the ground.  Swatting the air like you’re battling bees is not proper technique.  Instead, evade carefully and discriminantly, like you’ve been taught.  Choose an esquiva from your repertoire and execute it.  Did you do it perfectly? Maybe.  Probably not.  But any esquiva you can walk away from is a good one.

3)  Make your kicks count.

Every kick you throw opens you up to a variety of counterattacks, sweeps, and takedowns.  To minimize this inherent vulnerability, make your kicks matter.  Many capoeiristas, particularly beginners, have a tendency to kick too often and with too little intent.  Setting aside technique, the two essential considerations in an effective kick are distance and aim.  You can throw a textbook perfect armada, the kind of beautiful movement that brings a tear to your mestre’s eye, but if you do it when you’re fifteen feet away from your opponent it’s completely wasted.  At best it’s a pointless and energy-wasting decoration.  At worst it’s an opportunity for your opponent to pull out your support leg and ruin your evening.  A kick that’s properly distanced, however, forces the recipient to escape before doing anything, including kicking you back.  Whether you’re playing a beginner or a veteran, it’s guaranteed that your opponent’s priorities will be as follows:

1) Get to safety

If they can skip number 1, it leaves them all the more time to work on number 2.

The second factor in an effective kick is intent.  Beginners are often overly sympathetic, which results in various sloppy habits: pulled kicks, ludicrously slow or stalled movements, and awkward roda apologies.  Forget all that.  Aim your kicks.  Strike to hit.  If you throw a clean, effective kick and your opponent doesn’t avoid it, that’s their fault, not yours.  Don’t mistake my meaning: intent is not the same thing as anger.  A kick can have intent and be still be controlled, courteous, even friendly.  I’m not suggesting you dive into the roda with murder in your heart, ready to lay waste to all comers and make a trophy necklace with their ears.  That’s low-class.  Simply make sure your opponent understands that there is a penalty, however slight, associated with not avoiding your attacks.

In the long run, effective kicks are just as important to your safety as good esquivas.  When you’re training, or playing with your friends, often times people will escape from your kicks even when it’s not necessary.  Don’t rely on this; you will come across people who only dodge when necessary, people who will take every advantage of your crappy kicks.  Getting the courtesy dodge from your opponent should be just as embarrassing as getting the courtesy laugh after telling a bland joke.

Don’t be that person that expects the courtesy laugh, or the courtesy esquiva.  He/she has no friends and is shunned at parties.

4)  Whatever happens in the roda, don’t stop.

Every beginner goes deer-in-the-headlights at some point.  Capoeira has a steep learning curve, and beginners lack both the vocabulary of moves and the understanding of the game to deal with every situation.  That being said, it’s always better to do something than nothing.  If you’re not sure how to react to what the other player is doing, just do what you know.  Ginga, au, kick, whatever.  However awkward and silly the thing you’re doing seems, it’s quite a bit better than just standing there.  Holding still gives your opponent an open invitation to force you to move, either by making you escape an attack or by pushing you out of the roda so they can interact with someone less catatonic.  Everyone, regardless of level, will encounter situations in the roda for which they’re not prepared.  It happens to me often: my opponent will be doing some crazy no-handed physics-defying backflippy thing that is entirely impossible to respond to and I’m left completely at a loss.  Still, I force myself to do something, ginga, floreo, handstands, whatever.  Waiting like a bump on a log, however, is not a viable option.

This point is especially applicable after a takedown.  Remember that a successful rasteira or vengativa is not always the end of the game.  If you’re a low cord, it’s best to let your opponent decide when or if to reset the game.  If you’re swept, do not lie prone and expect the other player to give you time to recover.  Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t.  There are players who are as likely to jump on you as give you a hand up.  So get back up, post haste.  Laying flat with a smile on one’s face or giving your opponent a thumb’s up is not a valid defensive posture.  Role away, keep your hands up, and do whatever you have to to regain your composure and continue the game.

5)  Stop looking at the ground.  Seriously.

The ground will not kick you, but the same cannot be said of the person you’re playing.  Watch them instead.  Recognize that your desire to look at the floor is like a toddler’s security blanket; it might make you feel better, but is of no practical use when you’re in danger.  The sooner you learn to live without it the better.  Don’t be that weird kid in fifth grade who still can’t leave the house without his binkie.

6)  Enjoy yourself.

You’ll reach an important milestone, a day when the enjoyment you get out of capoeira finally eclipses the sheer terror you feel when entering the roda.  This more than any other achievement will help you on your way to greatness.  You’ll quickly find yourself more relaxed, more creative, and more inspired to play.  It is a game, after all, and you’ll play better when you’re having a good time.  The more you play, the more comfortable you’ll get in the roda.

So go play.

Videos from the New York Batizado

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Updates! with tags , , , , , , , on June 17, 2009 by testcapo

Last week was Instructora Cotonete’s Batizado in New York City. There were a lot of capoeiristas at this event; Mestre João Grande, Mestre Preguiçca, Mestre Di Mola, Professor Indio, Mestre Ari. Professor Indio was kind enough to make some videos for all of us who were unable to make it. Here are a couple of videos below. I am going to bug him to see if we can get any more.

Olha a pisada de Lampião

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Capoeira Songs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by testcapo


É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Olha a pisada de Lampião

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Lampião desceu a serra

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Pra buscar Maria Bonita

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Pra ajudar fugir da polícia

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

See the footsteps of Lampião

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

Lampião descended from the sierra

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

To look for Maria bonita

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

To help escape from the police

This is maybe one of my most favorite songs to sing. But Mr. Lampião had quite the legend. His activity was far more documented making him less mystical than Besouro. He was an outlaw and a mean one at that. He scoured the countrysides with Maria Bonita raising hell.

Here is an article I found off of that gives a good explanation of who this man was. I am not sure who authored this piece but the the direct link is (I am not quite sure why they titled the article the way they did. Maybe they were playing around with irony. Anyways, read on….)

Lampião – The greatest hero in Brazilian folklore

Virgulino Ferreira da Silva was born in 1897 in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. This is the hash country described by Euclydes da Cunha in his famous work, The Backlands (Os Sertoes). It is a land of little water, much cactus and scrub vegetation, not unlike that of the American Southwest. Although one of the oldest areas of Brazil, it has traditionally been one of the most backward. Few people received anything beyond a rudimentary education. Local society was ruled by large landholders and political bosses, often one and the same. These bosses and/or landowners had their armed men, just like the big ranchers in Arizona or the Mafia street enforgers. They were called Cangaceiros – men of the Cangaço, as the badlands are called.


As Virgulino grew up, he and his family got entangled in the ever-present local feuds, the reason being, of course, defense of honor. The family somehow ended up of the bad side of the local police, and in a raid on his home, Virgulino’s father was killed. It was an event that the police would regret. At age 25, Virgulino became Lampião, the scourge of the backlands and killer of police and soldiers, which he always called macacos (monkeys). For the next 15 years he would never be far from the headlines of newspapers throughout Brazil.

Lampião is often said to be the Robin Hood of Brazil. No way! Not unless Robin Hood started his career robbing sick bed-ridden 90 year old ladies. Lampião was a complex man, religious yet brutal. He was also vain, appearing in dozens of photos and giving interviews whenever possible. His band rarely totaled more than 40 men, but he would fight battles against up to 200 militia or special police.

It is hard to imagine that a small band of bandits was able to operate in the open against state police and troopers for a decade and a half. But in the Northeast of Brazil in the 20s and 30s, the roads were cattle trails, water was scarce, the police corrupt, local bosses were fearful, telegraph lines almost non-existent and people didn’t want any more trouble in their already hard lives. Most of the population had nothing that Lampião or his band wanted.


Hero or bandit?

Captain Virgulino, as Lampião liked to call himself, had no shortage of enemies. The fact that he would shoot any officer or trooper on sight insured that they would be mortal foes. The state and local politicians resented his prestige and power. But catching and killing Lampião was not easy. He knew the country side, he had spies, and he had friends. Most of the police sent against him were not overly enthusiastic about the possibility of getting ambushed in the brush. The cancageiros also had women in their band. The most famous was Maria Bonita (Pretty Mary), Lampião’s companion until death.

Maria Bonita

Maria Bonita

Because the police did nothing against him, most of the people reluctantly helped him. Not many folks joined him, however. Lampião was not a revolutionary, he was a bandit. Those who opposed him could lose everything, including their lives. In the event of betrayal or squealing to the police, the cancageiros were merciless. On the other hand, if Lampião and company came to town, and he had no reason to be mad at you, and you had nothing he wanted, quite often he would arrange a party with music and plenty of cachaça, and everybody would have a grand old time.


The dark side of Lampião

Not only did Lampião wipe out whole households of enemies at times, he would assault small towns and cities alike, killing police, asking local merchants for “contributions”, seizing any good he could carry off and often distributing those which he could not to the local population. Often women were raped. Mostly, these were women associated with the police and/or any opposing faction. Early in his career, Lampião and over 20 of his band gang raped a young wife of a soldier, while the poor man was forced to watch. Incidents of Lampião digging out a man’s eyeballs with a knife and cutting off a woman’s tongue have also been substantiated.

In 1938, Lampião’s long career ended. In the end, he was betrayed by one of the local supporters, who under threat of torture, told the soldiers were the outlaws were. On a beautiful July morning 50 soldiers armed with machine guns crept up and surprised an equal number of cangaceiros. About forty bandits managed to escape, but the leaders were clearly visible and were targeted in the first shots. Lampião and Maria Bonita were among the dozen bodies left dead after 20 minutes of battle. To insure that the news of Lampião’s often heralded demise would be believed, the soldiers took the heads of the captives to Salvador, were they remained on display for over 30 years.

Lampião's Head

Lampião's Head

Lampiao’s death signaled the end of an era. Maria Bonita and Lampião had a daughter, who is still living last I heard. The cangaceiros still live in popular folklore, cordel literature, comics, TV and movies. Best of all, the band’s favorite song, Mulher Rendera, which they would sing as they went into a town, is a wonderful tune almost every Brazilian knows. For a good (and very romanticized and sanitized) version of Lampião and his merry men, I recommend the movie Lampião, O Rei do Canganço with Leonardo Vilar and Gloria Menezes.

The Legend of Besouro

Posted in Capoeira nuggets with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2009 by testcapo

Similar to Parana, there are many topics that are regularly sung about in capoeira. There are several songs about Besouro Mangangá. In fact, Mestre Di Mola has written several dedicated to this legendary capoeirista. What his legend was most noted for was his ‘corpo fachado’ or his ability to disappear. In doing my own reserach, I came across some excellent articles about Besouro Manganga. And becasue this following article even quotes one of our very own, Mestre Di Mola’s songs, I thought  I would include it.

This article was written by Rouxinol for Agogô-A Dutch Quarterly for Capoeirstas. You can locate the original link at


~From history to legend, and back again~

To tell about Besouro, the legendary capoeirista, we must go back it to time, back to the end of the 19th century. There we find a time much different from ours. Those were the days of the introduction of a new law in Brazil. A law that prohibited Afro-Brazilian expressions like:  capoeira. Those who were caught practising or playing capoeira would face severe punishment. It was also the time were the slavery had just ended “officially”, and a lot of people of black origin were on the road looking for work.

One of them was João Matos Pereira who lived in Santo Amaro da Purificação (Bahia), nicknamed João Grosso. Who had a relationship with a woman named Maria Auta Pereira or Maria Haifa according to many. She became pregnant and so it was that in 1895 a son, Manoel Henrique Pereira was born. When Manoel Henrique was still a young boy he received his first lessons in capoeira from an African and ex-slave named Tio Alípio. These took place in Trapiche de Baixo, the poorest neighbourhood of Santo Amaro. Since capoeira was forbidden, this training had to be done in secret. As time went by Manoel Henrique grew, in length and capoeira as well. He received the nickname “Besouro”, “Besouro Mangangá” to be exact.

Besouro means beetle in Portuguese. That name was chosen because he became known to be able to escape out of difficult situations. Just like a black beetle, spreading its wings at the top of a branch and taking flight. And just like a beetle he would be always on the move.

Besouro Preto

According to the tales passed on by generations, Besouro had a great sense of justice.
This sense was often awakened through the great injustice the black people in Santo Amaro were suffering from by the local authorities. The majority of the population were Besouro lived was black. Although slavery was abolished officially in 1888, they had virtually no rights. After the abolition a punishment law was made in 1890 which enabled the police to pursue not only people playing capoeira but also people practising their African religion, candomblé. Next to that a large quantity of black people were not paid with money for their labour, but only with food in combination with a place to stay. It meant that they could not finance themselves and build something on their own for the future. Things would go even worse if some landlords would refuse to pay anything and the black people, having no rights at all, were left with nothing. This last situation also happened to Besouro according to the many tales about him. Only Besouro didn’t silently accept not being paid. He didn’t fear the land lord’s power and threatened him, forcing him to pay him what he owed. If someone was done injustice he would also come to aid.

There are stories about Besouro intervening during mistreatment of the local people by the police. He would face several policemen at once, beat them and disarm them without even being hit. Afterwards he would go with the arms to the police station and throw them in front of the door. There’s another story about Besouro forcing a police officer to drink a large quantity of cachaça (alcoholic beverage). Afterwards he let the drunken man walk through the town towards the police station. This was done to demoralise the often corrupt police force. In this way he dared to do things the black oppressed people wished they could do but didn’t have the courage or means to. He became feared because of his reputation of being unbeatable and at the same time was admired and loved for maintaining justice. Thus he also created many connections that could help him in terms as place to stay or testify in his favour towards the police.

The reason that Besouro was able to oppose the local police so successfully wasn’t only because he was a good fighter and knew the police methods quite well. He was said to have a “corpo fechado” which literally means: closed body. It is a term well known in certain African religions. Through special rites and rituals one would be able to have a “corpo fechado” where no knife or bullet could penetrate. It is said that Besouro was brought up with knowledge of these rituals en had a “corpo fechado” himself. There are stories about police shooting at him, without being able to hit him or Besouro fainting being hit and taking advantage of the situation when the police let their guard down. According to people with knowledge of candomblé, an African religion that was vast spread through Bahia by enslaved Africans, one would have to make certain preparations to create such a body, including implanting fava beans under the skin. In Africa this is used as a preparation for battle, creating an ultimate preventive medicine from harm. The full name “Besouro Mangangá” also relates to this.Mangangá can be translated in African language as medicine that functions to close the body, protecting the carrier from harm. In a way Besouro himself was a medicine to the oppressed minds of the black community in Bahia, by showing them another way was possible and giving them more courage and self respect. The name Besouro Mangangá is used by people of Santo Amaro to describe a beetle who can pierce through very hard pieces of wood and which bite hurts a lot. Perhaps this was demonstrating the way Manoel Henrique Pereira was unstoppable and impact he had on places and people wherever he went.

During his turbulent life Besouro had various jobs
He was a soldier in the army posted in Bahia at a time where the army and the police were separate forces and sometimes had conflicts about decisions. Benefiting from this, Besouro was also a man that never stayed at one place for long. He roamed around the areas working here and there to make a living. He worked for instance on ships that transported sugar cane that was cut in the fields in Santo Amaro, travelling to Salvador, Cachoeira, Maragogipe (all in Bahia) and back again . He also worked on several lands of landlords.

Besouro had a group of friends which often accompanied him and which he met on Sundays and holidays to play capoeira with. It was a group of people that helped him when he was in trouble and that he could trust. You could call it his gang and together they were more successful in succeeding what they wanted. Amongst the people in this group were: Paulo Barroquinha, Canário Pardo, Siri de Mangue and Doze Homens.*
Some could describe Besouro as a Robin Hood of black Bahia in the 20th century. Rebelling with his gang to the regime and disliking injustice. But this comparison is too superficial. This is first of all because he was feared by a big part of the local population. Maybe because it became clear that Besouro could afford to do a lot without anyone being able to catch him. “When people took notice that he was in town, they would close all windows and doors” (According to Dona Dormelinda, a resident of Santo Amaro).

Going against the exploiting local government, had made Besouro an enemy of many, including landlords. According to the tales told through generations an assault was arranged to kill him. One of his enemies was the son of an influential landlord, named Doutor Zeca who called for Besouro and asked him to deliver a message to an acquaintance of his in Maracangalha. In this letter there was a request to kill the one delivering the message: Besouro. It was said that Besouro Mangangá was illiterate and therefore he himself carried his own death sentence unknowingly. Besouro still had a “corpo fechado” that couldn’t be harmed normally, but in the African religion candomblé there are spells and counter spells.

Besouro was forbidden to do a few things in able to keep his “corpo fechado”: not passing under barbed wire, not sleeping with a woman the night before a fight and not loosing his patuá (protection amulet). In order to penetrate and break the sorcery of candomblé, called mandinga, a knife made of: ticum (tucum) was prepared. It’s a dark type of wood also called Mané Velho, known to be very strong. There was no mandinga to protect Besouro against this attack. When Besouro delivered the letter, he was asked to wait for the night so that tomorrow he could get an answer. He would be compensated for his waiting and so Besouro stayed. They hired a woman to have sex with him who after that stole his patuá and left. In the night the order was spread to bring many men in order to slay Besouro. The next day when Besouro awoke, forty men were gathered waiting for him. It is said that a man called Eusébio Quibaca sneaked up on Besouro while he was fighting and stabbed him with a knife of ticum in de abdomen, breaking the protection of Besouro.

This was said to take place in 1924. A time before the names of Mestres Pastinha and Mestre Bimba were well known in Bahia. Only… there was no evidence of this story. In fact there was no evidence that the man nicknamed Besouro Mangangá ever existed. And while the stories about his legendary actions grew like claiming that he could turn himself into a black beetle to escape, others were beginning to look sceptically towards the name Besouro. Wasn’t it all just a story made up a long time ago based on various occasions of less heroic proportions, gathered and assigned to one person? Didn’t the older capoeiristas wish there was someone like this, a hero they wanted to be? And then… a discovery was made by Antônio Liberac Cardoso Simões Pires, who did an in-depth research about Besouro Mangangá. He actually found the name Manoel Henrique Pereira in juristic documents of Bahia that said he was known as Besouro and charged with assault. Thus the history which many thought to be a mere legend became official history. Not all the stories written about him and the exact way he died, but at least there was some evidence now that could function as a support to the stories. Like another document that told about a Manuel Henrique, dying on the eighth of July in 1924 because of a pierced abdomen in Maracangalha, found by Contra-Mestre Lampião.

Over time, many people told stories about Besouro. One who kept these stories alive was Mestre Cobrinha Verde, said to be his cousin and to have learned capoeira from a number of mestres, including Besouro who also gave him his apelido. He was one of the people spreading parts of the heritage of this legendary capoeirista.
Besouro became over time, an icon in capoeira, resembling the power of capoeira against oppression and injustice.

The influence of Besouro in capoeira these days can be felt through the lineages of mestres that decent from him ** and through songs mentioning the name Besouro. To give a few lines within these songs and where they can be found:

  1. “Era Besouro, era Besouro, era forte com um touro”LP Mestre Ezequiel
  2. “ô Besouro Preto, ô Besouro Preto malvado” LP Eu Bahia
  3. “Eu vou partir porque mataram o meu Besouro” CD Mestre Pastinha
  4. “Quando eu morrer disse Besouro”  CD Cordão de Ouro Volume I
  5. “E todo mundo ouviu falar, de Besouro Mangangá” CD Mestre Paulo dos Anjos
  6. “Zum, zum, zum, Besouro Mangangá“ CD M. Toni e M. Nestor Capoeira
  7. “Do Besouro preto, eu sempre ouvi falar” CD Mestre Di Mola Volume III
  8. “Faca de tucum matou Besouro Mangangá” CD Abadá Volume II

I like to end this article with a song, telling about Besouro and things that are universal to us capoeiristas in life.

Reze uma prece e deixe acontecer
Autores: Mestre Di Mola e Baiano
Ritmo: Angola
CD: Capoeira Guanabara – Mestre Di Mola – Volume III

Do Besouro Preto, do Besouro Preto eu sempre ouvi falar
Do Besouro Preto, do Besouro Preto eu sempre ouvi falar
Nascido em Maracangalha
Vê se a mandinga não falha
Pois a morte vai chegar.
É triste, mas é pura verdade
A força da falsidade
Faz um cabra se enganar
E o tempo jamais apagou
A história de um guerreiro danado, chamado seu Besouro
Corre lá patrão, faça o seu sinal
Escreve uma carta e mostre seu ideal
Corre vai lá ver, vai logo capataz
Entregue a seu Besouro,
Que a morte já chega é por trás
Capoeira é assim, você tem que aceitar
Capoeira acontece só reze uma prece pra jogar
Capoeira é assim, você tem que aceitar                       (Coro)
Capoeira acontece só reze uma prece pra jogar         (Coro)

If you have any questions or comments you can e-mail



* The names mentioned here are quite interesting in terms of lineage in capoeira, but have also been misinterpreted by many. To some there was another person belonging to this group who had the name Cordão de Ouro, namely the brother of Canário Pardo (Mestre Atenilo). But others disagree and say that the name Cordão de Ouro was another name for Besouro Mangangá (Mestre Waldemar). According to Mestre Atenilo, the group members trained together and had students themselves. Maria Doze Homens for example, one of the most famous women in capoeira of the past had a student named Maria Salomé. The song “Adão, Adão, oi cadê Salomé, Adão” (Adão, Adão, o where is Salomé, Adão), on the LP of Mestre Pastinha is said to be referring to her.

** To give an example of a lineage leading to current days: One of the students of Besouro was Siri de Mangue who also taught capoeira to Cobrinha Verde. Siri de Mangue and Canário Pardo were also two of the teachers of Mestre Waldemar, who passed away in 1990 and had students who are still alive today like Mestre Bigodinho. On a further note: It is said that Besouro had no children, but that he had a younger brother who passed away long ago, called Caetano Cabeleiro.

For more information about Besouro I can recommend the following sources:

– The book “Capoeira e mandingas”
by  Marcelino dos Santos – Mestre Mau
– The book “Atenilo, o relâmpago da Regional”
by Raimundo Cesar Alves de Almeida – Mestre Itapoan
– The book “Bimba, Pastinha e Besouro Mangangá, três personagens da Bahia”
by Antônio Liberac Cardoso Simões Pires
– The documentary “Black Beetle”
by Salim Rollins
– The magazine “Praticando Capoeira” nr. 04
by Letícia Cardoso de Carvalho
– Contra Mestre Lampião

An authority about Besouro Mangangá. Currently living in Santo Amaro da Purificação. He has done a vast study about Besouro, discovering a lot of interesting facts. Like: proof of his existence and the exact whereabouts of Besouro in the past. I owe him and Dengosa for receiving me so well and taking the time to tell about Besouro and introducing me to important people of Santo Amaro like: Mestre Felipe, Mestre Adó and also Dona Dormelinda, the sister of Besouro.

Paraná Eeeeeee!!

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Capoeira Songs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by testcapo

We went over ‘E Paraná’ in our class yesterday and breifly touched on why Paraná is included in several capoeira songs. I was able to pull up an excellent article that goes into more detail…..

This article was taken from

Paraná River

Why sing Paraná ê?
Written by Formada Ana Marley & Manuel de Querino
Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Translated into English by Shayna McHugh

Source: Capoeira Santista

Much of capoeira’s philosophy and history is recorded between the lines of its songs, not forgetting that part of this history is linked with that of Brazil. This is why it’s important to research and question the meaning of some songs, since their main purpose is to pass on a message, whether immediately or for later reflection.

So we are going to talk a little bit about the historical content within one of capoeira’s most popular songs: Parana ê. It refers to the War of Paraguay, but what was this war?

It began in 1865 and lasted five years. At the time, Paraguay was the only country in Latin America that could be considered independent, and it found itself in full industrial development, with weapons and gunpowder factories. Unproductive land was being transformed into state plantations, generating employment for the whole population.

Impeding the process of Paraguay was a big challenge for England, because Paraguay became a big competitor in productivity. Brazil and Argentina, on the other hand, were interested in taking possession of parts of Paraguayan land.

The spark that initiated the war occurred on November 24, 1864, when Paraguayan president Solano López cut ties with Brazil, captured the Brazilian ship Marques de Olinda, and invaded the state of Mato Grosso (which, together with Paraná, are the only states that border Paraguay).

At the end of all the battles, the Paraguayans took the worst casualties. 75% of the country’s population was killed; of 800,000 inhabitants, only 194,000 were left. With this victory, England once again returned to economic domination of the region, and Brazil and Argentina managed to take 140,000 kilometers of the land they wanted.

But what about the slaves? How did they enter the War?

The whites “logically” didn’t want to be on the front line of battle, so they created a law saying that blacks who entered the war and returned alive would win their liberty. What the whites didn’t anticipate was that the majority of the blacks who went… actually returned!!

The slaves had an advantage thanks to capoeira, because at the time, battles depended more on hand-to-hand fighting than on weapons. So, on their way back, on the margins of the Paraná River, the now ex-slaves sang:

Vou dizer à minha mulher, Paraná
Capoeira que venceu, Paraná…     [Venceu a guerra]
Paraná ê, Paraná ê, Paraná.
Ela quis bater pé firme, Paraná        [Ela = a guerra]
Isso não aconteceu, Paraná…

I will tell my wife, Paraná
That capoeira won [the war], Paraná
Paraná ê, Paraná ê, Paraná.
It [the war] wanted to stamp its foot hard, Paraná
This did not happen, Paraná

Despite the tragedy for Paraguay, the war was an important milestone in the life of slaves in Brazil. Because of this, it is commemorated to this day in ladainhas and corridos throughout the country.

Here is the original link