Washington, DC, USA – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released this week Capoeira Angola 2: Brincado Na Roda, an album of traditional Brazilian songs played and chanted as the integral musical accompaniment to the centuries-old martial art and ritual dance known as capoeira. The songs are performed by the Grupo Capoeira Angola Pelourinho (GCAP), a group headed by director Mestre Moraes that is dedicated to preserving the non-martial, spiritual elements of capoeira, as well as its African heritage.As the title ‘Brincado Na Roda’ (meaning “playing in the ring”) suggests, capoeira takes place in a circular area in which two students compete using a dance-like martial arts style. Meanwhile, songs such as those heard on ‘Capoeira Angola 2,’ played using the single-string instrument berimbau and various percussion instruments, simultaneously affect and are affected by the action in the ring with their ever-adapting rhythms and chants. The ladainha (or, “litany”) of each song is chanted by the group leader. Though portions of the text are prepared in advance, often the Mestre will improvise based on the competition at hand.
The style of capoeira practiced by the GCAP has its origins in the traditions of the Congo and Angola, transplanted to Brazil during the slave trade. The ritual was considered a crime during the late 19th century, but was revived later as a form of physical education and self-defense. Rather than subscribe to this more martial form of capoeira, Mestre Moraes and the GCAP concentrate on its spiritual elements, studying capoeira as a microcosm of the world at large, in which one must adapt to the complex rhythms and exertions of others in order to prosper.