Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that integrates fighting with dance, ritual, and gravity defying acrobatics. It is marked by deft, tricky movements often played on the ground or completely inverted and it is always played with music.

Capoeira has over 400 years of history. It originated at a time when African slaves were not allowed to practice self-defence.

The oppression of slavery served as a catalyst for Capoeira since it became a way to resist their oppressors, disguise their fighting as a dance, transmit their culture, and lift their spirits.

Having been outlawed in Brazil for several years, Capoeira is now recognised as an active exporter of Brazilian culture and is practiced worldwide.

The ginga (rocking back and forth) is the fundamental movement in Capoeira. It is used for attack and defence purposes. It keeps the capoeirista in a state of constant motion and prevents him from being a still and easy target.

The combination of attacks and defence gives Capoeira its perceived ‘fluidity’ and choreography-like style in the roda which highlights the interaction between the two players and the musicians and observers.

Every cultural aspect of Capoeira is present during a roda. It is a circle formed by capoeiristas and Capoeira musical instruments and where every participant sings the typical songs and claps their hands following the music.

Two capoeiristas enter the roda and play a ritualised mock combat according to the style required by the rhythm of the musical instruments.

Music is a crucial element in Capoeira. It fulfils multiple roles as it gives energy to the capoeiristas, directs the speed and style of the roda and orally transmits information. The people playing the music form one side of the roda. In Capoeira there are five main instruments: berimbau, atabaque, pandeiro, agôgô and reco-reco.

The berimbau is the leading instrument, determining the tempo and the style of the music and game played. Three types of berimbaus are used. The low pitched ginga sets the rhythm, the high pitched medio and even higher pitched viola make variations and improvisations.

Capoeira instruments are disposed in a row called bateria and the types of instruments used to form this orchestra depend on the style of Capoeira.

Rodas of Capoeira Angola typically use three berimbaus, two pandeiros, an atabaque, an agôgô and a reco-reco. Rodas of Capoeira Regional use one berimbau and two pandeiros, while rodas of Capoeira Banguela use three berimbaus, one pandeiro and one atabaque. It is the speed and rhythm of the instruments which tells the players whether to play more cooperatively or more competitively and whether to use close ground manoeuvres or fast acrobatic movements.

The subject matter of the music is varied and its lyrics express much history, philosophy and wisdom, often through metaphors. The songs represent a rich oral tradition as they either consist of a narrative or a call and response system sung while two players are in the roda.

The subject often depends on the message that the leader wants to send, but it is usually praise or tribute to a geographical location, a historical person or saint, the group’s mestre/lineage of Capoeira, or even a comment on one or both of the players within the roda.

The Batizado e Troca de Cordas is an important annual event for each Capoeira community. It is a ceremonial roda where new members are recognised as capoeiristas and are ‘baptised’ into the group.

More experienced students also change their belt and move up to the next graduação as it is known in Portuguese. The Batizado is a great Capoeira community celebration in which masters from near and far are invited and the fraternity of Capoeira is measurably strengthened by the camaraderie and interplay.

Different coloured cords are tied around the waist and each colour is based on the students’ skills and experience. The people in the circle are usually other capoeiristas waiting to play and observers. Player or not, you are expected to give energy to the roda by clapping and singing in response to the person leading the roda.

The Third Batizado Capoeira Nagô Malta was held at The Point at Tigné, Sliema on June 25. It featured some of the world’s best capoeiristas from Brazil, Spain, Italy and England. Mestre Pequinês, the founder and head of the Capoeira Nagô community was among the participating guests.

Capoeira has been practised in Malta since 2008. The local Capoeira School is a branch of the international Capoeira community Capoeira Nagô. This community was set up by Mestre Pequinês in 2002. Apart from its headquarters in Goiânia, Brazil, Capoeira Nagô is represented in other parts of Brazil, the USA, Spain, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, England, Germany, Italy, Peru, and Malta. There are thousands of students attending Capoeira Nagô.

The Capoeira School in Malta was set up by the Brazilian Capoeira instructor Professor Alf (João Paulo Ramalho). Initially there were only two students practising Capoeira on the beach but since 2008 it has received a major response from the public as there are now dozens of students ranging from young kids to adults.

Three other Brazilian capoeiristas, Formado Galo (Carlos Eduardo Pereira), Graduado Branquinho (Luciano Cesar Leite) and Graduado Chucky (Daniel Coelho de Brito), assist Professor Alf with the classes which are held in various parts of Malta. Classes are currently also being set up in Gozo. Various public events and performances are held all year round.

Capoeira classes in Malta are held as follows: Monday 8.30 – 9.30 p.m: Cynergi Health and Fitness Club, St Julian’s; Tuesday 6 to 7 p.m: Preluna Hotel, Sliema (class for children aged four and up), Tuesday 7 to 8 p.m: Independence Gardens, Sliema; Wednesday 8 – 9 p.m: Cynergi Health and Fitness Club, St Julian’s, Thursday 7 to 8 p.m: Independence Gardens, Sliema, Friday 7.30 to 8.30 p.m: Cynergi Health and Fitness Club, St Julian’s.

For more information look up Capoeira Nagô Malta on Facebook, e-mail or call 9909 6496.

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