Are Angoleiros Snobs?

The other day I talked with a Regionalista whom I didnt know much. And in this conversation he was talking about a teacher of Capoeira Angola who was (quote) “like all Angoleiros a bit of a snob”. He knew who he was talking to, so I smiled and replied “yeah I know, I’m like that, too.” Actually I was not even mad about that, I kind of saw where this prejudice is coming from.

Prejudices

It is kind of true. Angoleiros do often look down on modern Capoeiristas, or – and this is much more the case – try to point out why Capoeira Angola is preferable. Angoleiros do bitch about the music, which is so much better in Capoeira Angola than in Capoeira Regional, they do state that the interaction is missing in Capoeira Regional, they do say that modern Capoeira did lost its roots and does prefer muscle over brain and full-body-workout over freeing your soul. Some Angoleiros do smile when they see a pumped up guy walking around in his white Abada, because that Regionalista is so clichè! Of course this is not a one-way road. I have heard enough remarks which made me go mad, like “your training is for sissys”, “yu call that capoeira, I show you what Capoeira is” or just “well, Capoeira Angola is just slower Capoeira”. And the stereotype of the smelly Angoleiro with dreads and being stoned like a wall is so old, I won’t even touch it.

Where does it come from?

The habits Capoeiristas of my age (not that old) are showing around today – all these prejudices – are nothing new. It has its roots in recent Capoeira history. It’s the phenomenon of the Regional-Angola dichotomy which arouse in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This dichotomy did come to existence when Capoeira Regional did start growing rapidly due to the achievements and the regulations made by the Senzala group and their contemporaries. In those times Capoeira Angola was still small and stayed small till the 80’s, where some people said that Capoeira Angola actually died out. In these times Angoleiros had to struggle for acceptance in the Capoeira scene. The new modern Capoeira scene was growing so fast and there were so many Regionalistas who did believe that modernity and change was good and that traditions are to be discarded, that they saw Angoleiros as something inferior. “We put the angoleiros on the grounds and stamp on their heads.” is a quote Mestre Moraes cited about some comments he heard of Regionalistas (you can read this in Nestor Capoeiras ‘The Little Capoeira Book’). A lot of Mestres de Capoeira Angola resigned in those times and only a few did fight fiercly for their acceptance. In those times the GCAP from Mestre Moraes did start saving Capoeira Angola. Mestre Moraes, a highly valuable Mestre, is often seen as a difficult personality, as a typical example of the fanatical Angoleiro. What most people don’t see is that his way to stick to the traditions and to actively distinguish and define Capoeira Angola from modern Capoeira was the only way to keep the Capoeira Angola scene alive. If it was not for him and Mestres alike him, Capoeira Angola would still vegetate in an existence like in the early eighties, or it might be de facto non-existent.

And this is the heritage Angoleiros do carry around. We are learning movements, philosophy and attitudes from our Mestres and our teachers. And even if they personally didnt live through the hard times of Capoeira Angola, then it was their teachers who did.

Of course there are also other cases, like Angoleiros who were Regionalistas before. These convertits do have a classical convertit-attitude. They are Angoleiros because they are convinced that Capoeira Angola is the right Capoeira. If you started in a Capoeira Angola group from the very beginning (like I did) it’s quite likely that your attitude is less strict. People who changed usually fight hard for their acceptance as Angoleiros in the beginning (well, they even have to learn the Ginga from the very beginning) and might have the need to prove themselves, and also to convince others that the change from Regional to Angola does pay off.

And finally there are the ones who just see the success of Capoeira Regional and do feel the need to point out that Capoeira Angola does have its own qualities, which makes it a real alternative. Everybody knows that Capoeira Regional does have a strong effect on the common audience. People who have no idea about Capoeira do get attracted more often by Regionalistas than by Angoleiros. Capoeira Regional is considered to be cooler. Capoeira classes and workshops of modern Capoeira are usually much more crowded, while a group size of more than 20 is already quite big for a group of Capoeira Angola. Also the average age of Regionalistas seems to be lower than the age of Angoleiros. All this does certainly rise the need for some comments by Angoleiros.

Is this changing?

Yes it is. Capoeira Angola does more and more get the respect it deserves. More and more Mestres and teachers of modern Capoeira do accept Capoeira Angola as being a striving, modern part of Capoeira – and not just history which is only kept alive by some stick-in-the-muds. Capoeira Angola is still small in comparison with modern Capoeira. But it has found its nichè and new confidence does allow interstyle contacts, meetings, workshops and rodas. This development does not only occur between Mestres and teachers, but also between students. Angoleiros and Regionalistas do get more and more involved with each other. Some Capoeiristas try to learn both (which is something I’d post later about), some say that they do merge things together which were splitted in the past, and some just accept that the styles are different, but not to be compared in terms of what is better, what sucks?  Comparison between Capoeira Angola and Regional should be more What does suit me more?

This doesnt mean that you will never encounter snobistic Angoleiros, but this also does not mean that I will never meet a guy who says that Capoeira Angola is for old men, until I prove him otherwise😉 What do we learn out of this? Don’t be too harsh with the Angoleiro’s attitude of teaching you or telling you what Capoeira Angola is about. This attitude is decreasing and as such you don’t have to bother (much) with it in future. And I try not to get annoyed when some Regionalista guy comes up to me and tries to explain to me that Capoeira Angola is too slow for him;)

And if there is an active Angoleiro-Regionalista contact, that will lead to so many interesting workshops, games and Rodas. And that certainly it will pay off in future, enriching both styles and the Capoeira scene in general. For a nice example of an interstyle game see this video:

picture source: http://www.nzinga.org.br/

19 Comments

Filed under Capoeira Today

19 responses to “Are Angoleiros Snobs?

  1. Coelho

    This article is spot on. We recently did a roda together with the Angola Group we share our training location with, and I definitely see myself doing some Angola once I’m not a beginner anymore. The most beautiful dialogues where those when advanced students of both groups played together and both had to adapt there style slightly to fit that of the other.
    The music was beautiful. And the way the Angola Mestre played and acted might be perceived as slightly cocky on the surface, but I rather found it to be a perfect example of what Nestor describes in his books as “good humor”, there was some noticeable arrogance, but in a playful, charming way. I’d say that Angoleiro’s are the Han Solo’s of the Capoeira world, and everybody likes a scoundrel😉

  2. Hah! I’d like to see myself as the han Solo under the Capoeiristas;)

    The cockiness you perceive in a Roda is usually just the way Angoleiros play. It is nothing they just use when they are playing Regionalistas. It belongs to Capoeira Angola. But you will see it once you see more and more Angoleiros play.
    Thanks for your contribution Coelho!

    Keep on going. you never know which Angoleiro you’re gonna meet in the next Roda!

  3. Hi Angoleiro,

    First, as usual, great post, very comprehensive, I like that.

    Second, I wish to give a different perspective: ‘Capoeira e uma so’ , all the rest is nonsense.

    The differences are apparent in every group and in every capoeirista, the beauty is that they can all play under the berimbau…

    Judgement only reflects our own flaws – I was lucky to attend classes of various groups around the world and always was accepted warmly and had very good experiences, I sometimes had the feeling that someone there was too arrogant or too agressive or too something, and only later on learned the lesson that this was my interpertation, reflecting a flaw of my own for me to fix. Capoeira, again, proved itself as a great teacher.

    Thank you for your post and inspiration

    Cobrador

  4. Hey Cobrador. Thanks for your comment. And you are right. A lot of times frustrations or agression in the Roda do come up because there is a misunderstanding – not only of you, but of both participants. But I surely think that this is not always the case. Sometimes you have a valentào in the Roda and this is just normal life. As everybody is allowed to play Capoeira, you will have all kinds of people in there. Also agressive ones, or arrogant ones.
    Actually I cant really support the “Capoeira e uma sò”. Of course, Capoeira is Capoeira. A hit is a hit, a dodge is a dodge and a nice game is a nice game. But surely there are differences between Capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional, and – as newest member of the Capoeira family – Capoeira Contemporeana. And I doubt that we are doing good in ignoring the fact that there are differences. Why can’t people just accept that the rules of different games are different. Isnt it the same with languages. Spanish is not Portuguese and vice versa, but Spanish people can understand Portuguese (if spoken carefully) and Portuguese can understand and speak Spanish. And yes, there can be misunderstandings between Spanish and Portuguese because they use the same words in different contexts, for example. But nobody goes around and says that Portuguese and Spanish are, in fact, Latin. And nobody goes around and says ‘I am speaking Latin’. That language died out. So what is so bad about different Capoeiras?
    But I am taking this topic too far, maybe. I think it is worth another post (and before: much more thinking about this topic!). Don’t worry Cobrador. I respect you having this opinion and a lot of my friends do have the same. I obviously don’t think so, but that’s not a reason to think less of someone as Capoeirista🙂

  5. Trenel Pão de milho

    Ola Capoeiristas,

    I think everyone has a good argument on this topic. I believe there are differences between Angola and Regional but snobbery in both due to differences in players perceptions. Remember that Mestre Bimba was originally a student of the same Capoeira that the Angola style came from which, he developed to create the Regional Style.

    But I also believe there is only one Capoeira-Everyone is part of the same whole. Capoeira is Capoeira and although it is practiced with different ideas and in different ways, comes from the same heritage and same history. There will always be differences due to the evolution of Capoeira and how it has travelled since the 1930’s but it should still have the same soul. Peoples personalities, perceptions and needs are always different and this is the cause of snobbery- because everyone wants to be right. It shouldn’t be about that, but about respect.

    I think differences in styles are good and have helped Capoeira grow and develop. Capoeira wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for Capoeira Regional but it is also interesting that alot of mestres will say Regional is different now compared to when Mestre Bimba created it.

    I am an Angoleiros and will always be, but I have alot of respect for all Capoeira players. All Capoeira has value but the difficulty that faces us is the individual attitudes of its players. There are snobs in both styles- if there is going to be a sterotype, then you need to sterotype the individual, not the style. Valeu e axé

  6. Oi Trenel, nice comment of you, thanks for this! One of the most important words in this comment is “respect”, as I see it. and you are right. Of course everybody has his reasons to prefer his style of capoeira, but if you dont respect other styles and schools of Capoeira then you neglect the fact that Capoeira was never a uniform art. You ignore that it was always practised in different styles and that it’s heterogenity was and is the key to its survival. And by the end, when you are in the Roda, you are not playing against a certain style, but against a certain person… If that person is a snob, it’s his problem.

    cheers

  7. estralia

    Oi galera,

    I agree with Pão and angoleiro: capoeiristas are people, some are snobs and some aren’t. When I’m confronted with a “snob”, I also think, Well, that’s YOUR problem. It seems to me, we each have to find out what capoeira is to each of us.

    I am as angoleiro calls it a “convert”, but I don’t identify with his profile of one! I don’t feel I have anything to prove to anyone. I may relate to people who claim their capoeira is the “true one”, but I prefer to talk about it in a different way, one of personal experience rather than absolute truths:

    When I discovered (for myself) capoeira Angola, I had been training Regional/Contemporanea for less than two years. In capoeira Angola I found everything that I loved most about capoeira being practiced with so much more focus, awareness and depth. Therefore, “uma capoeira só”? Of course! In my Regional group I was first introduced to the fundamentals of capoeira, but it is in the Angola group that I finally found what I somehow already knew existed, what I was really looking for in capoeira.

    Axé

  8. Hey estralia, thanks for your comment. very nice and convincing way to see this whole snob-issue. I am glad that you dont identify with the capoeira-angola-convert stereotype. there are a few people I know who do act according to this stereotype and there’s nothing wrong with it. it just doesnt help angoleiros to get rid of the snob-image some people have of them.

    cheers

  9. jason

    As an Angoleiro, I’m going to say we are right to be snobs.

    It’s like if a foodie sees someone eating Wendy’s–they look at them like “how can you put that in your body??”

    My experience with “Capoeira Regional” and “Contemporaneo” and other non-traditional schools has always left something to be desired.

    It appears that most of these groups thumb their nose at Angola as something that is slow, and that “you can’t fight with.”

    This is the slave master’s perspective. “It’s a dance. You can’t fight with it.”

    These capoeira schools are big into Brazil, and they overlook Africa.

    Both M. Benedito and M. Bentinho (the teachers of M. Pastinha and M. Bimba) were from Angola. The lessons they gave their pupils are directly traceable to Africa.

    Nearly all of the groups I’ve seen have suffered due to a lack of focus on the seriousness of the art– Angola and otherwise. Yet it seemed especially disregarded in non-angola academies.

    At some of these Globo-Gym style schools, the environment was closer to a disco where people are out to pose and find a hook-up than a school that provides spiritual AND physical enrichment.

    So while it may solidify the case that Angoleiros are snobs, so what? What do you care? There aren’t nearly as many places to train Angola as there are all of these other commercial forms of capoeira. There aren’t nearly as many Angoleiros as there are “capoeiristas.” And you’ll just label us as old-fashioned and incapable of fighting, anyway. We’ll be snobs. Marginal snobs.

    But we’ll still hold the truth of a cultural inheritance that goes back to Africa and the spiritual traditions of millenia
    instead of worrying about what color our belt is.

    We’re Angoleiros. Not cheerleaders.

  10. Hello Jason,

    thanks for your comment and appreciate your honest and straightforward comment. You did actually name a lot of things which do bother Angoleiros about the modern forms of Capoeira. In less radical words I extract:
    – that Capoeira Angola gets belittles by some modern Capoeiristas
    – that we as Angoleiros do see ourselves as keepers of the tradition
    – and that Capoeira Angola is still treated like a step-child

    And I like the quote “We’re Angoleiros. Not cheerleaders.”

    Though I strongly recommend you to think again about our right to be snobs. I did look up a nice definition of snobs:

    There are those who feel a natural sense of superiority over others, whether it be physical prowess, intellectual capacity, social standing or financial status. A snob, however, generally crosses over the line and exhibits boorish or overbearing behavior towards those he or she views as inferior…This is not to suggest that snobs do not have true expertise in their chosen fields, but they often use their sophistication or arcane knowledge to belittle others. A snob may not even realize he or she comes across as effete or snobbish, but others may recognize the skills immediately… The distinguishing characteristic between an expert and a snob may be the difference between being opinionated and judgmental. A wine expert may have strong opinions on a certain vintage, for example, but a wine snob would appear indignant if a host opened an inferior bottle…

    I think I prefer to be seen as a traditionalist Capoeirista, as an Angoleiro, and I prefer that nobody belittles me or my style (although there are stupid people in every style I see that more and more bonds are being established), and I would love to see more Capoeira Angola groups and Angoleiros around me. But by looking down on modern Capoeiristas I wont improve the situation of me or Capoeira Angola. We should gain our respect by sticking what we are good at, Capoeira Angola, and not by judging on those who play modern variants.

  11. Erfurgem

    What I dont like, in both regionalistas and angoleiros, is this crucade for whos capoeira is best! Like you said; it is mere a point of different styles, not which is better than the other. It is almost like the eternal discussion in faith; christians trying to convince the muslims in battle and vice versa, but hey…. in the end, dont we all believe in god, the way how just differs? Dont we all play capoeira, just in a different style? Then why must always 1 thing be better than the other, not just different? Whats this human need for overpowering?

    Thats the discussion I had with you on the other post. I dont like the angoleiro attitude that what they have is THE real deal, the original, the traditional capoeira. Because, the traditional part is also only relative. From all styles around today, yes, they are the most traditional form. But, only relatively, only compared to how it was played in the beginning of last century in Bahia. We have no clue how it fits with the older froms before those times. So then, personally, I do feel they are snobby when they try to convince that they hold the truth, while, that is only relative.

    I think it highly depends also on your teacher. If you teacher always bitched around about the other style, you are more likely to bitch around about it as well….

  12. Eva

    hey angoleira,
    definitely enjoying your site… very informative and engaging posts (as well as comments!). keep up the good job! one note for you though: you wrote that the video in this post in an example of an interstyle game. both are actually angoleiros -one is of course mestre poloca from grupo nzinga (in all white) and the other one is a student of mestre valmir’s from fica-bahia (gold and black). =)

  13. Eva

    oops, sorry for my typo… should read angoleiro NOT angoleira! =)

  14. Hello Eva, thanks for your nice contribution and thanks for that piece of information. I remember that back then when I found this video it was mentioned somewhere along the line of “Meet-up between Angoleiros and Regionalistas”. You are right though, the socalled “Regionalista” is playing pretty much like an Angoleiro does. My fault then. You were there? Or do you know the players? Or do you have just very good eyes and can decipher the t-shirts logos? In any case, I believe you are right!
    Oh, and dont worry about the name, I was wondering a bit, but I wont go mad about a small typo🙂

    cheers

  15. Eva

    hey angoleiro,
    i wish i was at that event… i think they had like 5-10 rodas all going on at the same time in salvador. it was from last july and was a celebration of capoeira being officially acknowledged as a “patrimônio cultural imaterial” (cultural treasure?) by the brasilian government.

    there’s a great article (with links to photos and videos -including the video you posted) at the Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional website. i’d post the link but i think i’m not able to post hyperlinks here. let me know and i can email you the link.

    but no, my eyes aren’t that sharp -i know the two playing. the guy in the gold and black is a friend! =) mestre poloca was definitely putting it on him that day! i love m. poloca’s game!

  16. Eva

    ok, just figured out the link thing. enjoy!

  17. Eva

    oops, it doesn’t look like the link came through. try this one and search for capoeira in the search box. the article is “21/07/2008 – Maestria reconhecida”.

    cheers!

  18. hey, thanks for the link. I remember that I got the video from the very same website. When you click on “confraternizacao: angola e regional” at the end of the site, a new window pops up with exactly the same videos. Obviously I didnt read what was written above the videos: “Co-fundador do Grupo Nzinga de Capoeira Angola, Mestre Poloca joga roda de angola em Salvador no dia 15 de julho de 2008, data do registro da capoeira como patrimônio cultural brasileiro”…. not much mentioning of an angola-regional confraternization anymore… my fault!

    thanks!

  19. mago

    I don´t understand the ansious wish of the contemporanea capoeira practicants (by the way, I don´t see any relation between the regional bahian fight and the diferents contemporanean capoeiras, but it can be I dont´n know so much about its) to said they so play angola, too; speak the capoeira is one, and so on… please, respect, I dont pretend that I play senzala, nago… If you want I don´t play capoeira anymore: I play angola only, but, if angola is now a very interesting mark to sale, OK , I don´t play angola anymore. The game I play , the way I take, I learned from my Master and I don´t want to say is better or worse than nothing.

    But when a contemporanean capoeira master says he play angola and in a while he called himself capoeira angola master I think: not for me!
    of course can be people who practice regional and angola, and ping-pong and angola, and Juodo and angola…
    but angola isn´t only the game, nor the music, is much more but isn´t something I can splain, I think, because there are things to be know from diferents ways than the word

    but I dont care: whatever name we put to capoeira or to angola will be used for aliens, is a part of the game and of the life
    no?

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