Category Archives: Mestres

Mestre Cobra Mansa

cobra

The masters series of this Blog isnt finished yet, although I dont know if I will ever be able to mention all masters who deserve being mentioned. This time I decided to write about one of the most famous Mestres of Capoeira Angola. Mestre Cobra Mansa is known both to Angoleiros and Regionalistas. He is known for his marvelous game and his passionate commitment to the artform. A friend of mine did once call him something like a “popstar” of Capoeira Angola. This is true in terms of him being a living legend and him being known beyond any borders of Capoeira. It is in so far not true as popstars today are more known to be adored more than they actually deserve. With Mestre Cobra Mansa it’s different. But let’s have a look at who this mestre is:

Cinézio Feliciano Peçanha

Mestre Cobra Mansa was born Cinézio Feliciano Peçanha in rio de Janeiro in 1960. He grew up in Duque de Caxias, which is a city close to Rio de Janeiro. As a kid he did earn some money as a street vendor, performing for the audience and doing acrobatic tricks for them. He started Capoeira in 1973 with a Mestre Josais da Silva (which I have not much heard of other that he has a school named after him (Associação de Capoeira Josias da Silva) but shortly after that he started to be a student of Mestre Moraes (I have two dates given for this, 1974 and 1976). Under his guidance he stayed till the early 90’s where out of “philosophical differences” they parted ways. During his time with mestre Moraes they both founded the Grupo Capoeira Angola Pelourinho (GCAP) and moved to Salvador da Bahia where they managed to convince Mestre Joao Grande to teach classes again. Prior to that he was also spending some time as photographer and as policeman.

FICA

FICAIn the 90’s mestre Cobra Mansa came to the US and founded the International Capoeira Angola Foundation (ICAF in English, FICA in Portuguese) in the year 1995 together with Mestre Valmir and Mestre Jurandir. FICA is now one of the most famous representatives of Capoeira Angola in the world, having opened up school worldwide. Especially in the US, but also in Mozambique, Russia, France, Hawaii, Costa Rica and, of course, Bahia amongst others. The size of this organization has led to some critics as far as I have heard. I couldnt get much information out of them, but it looks as if people are afraid of a monopolization of the Capoeira Angola in similar ways as it happened in Capoeira Regional, where Senzala, ABADA and Co. dominate the “market”. there is little one can argue against that kind of fear, but one can surely say that FICA doesnt see itself as unique or special. As far as I have had the pleasure to meet people from FICA they seemed not to be discriminating between them and “other” angoleiros and I have not heard of one occasion where it was different. So for me there is no reason to doubt on FICA’s positive impact on Capoeira Angola.

Busy Mestre…

There is actually two reasons why I think that mestre Cobra Mansa is one of the bigger mestres on the Angola scene. First, there is his style of playing, and second, there is his projects. Mestre Cobra Mansa seems to have no private life at all as he is constantly busy with building up stuff. And, interestingly, he is also moving on with the projects. So when one project is on its feet, he leaves it in trusted hands and starts another project. At least that’s what I think happens. I will shortly introduce three projects he has/had been going on besides building up GCAP and FICA.

a) Roda de Caxias: not many people know the Roda of Caxias, at least not many people in Europe know of it. I wont go into detail, but what you should know is that the Roda de Caxias is one of the most enduring Rodas in Rio, which survived repression during the time of the Brazilian dictatorship. There are many Mestres present in this Roda and Mestre Conra Mansa is mentioned as a co-founder of it. The mestre you should be looking for for this Roda is Mestre Russo, though. Here you can find more information (it’s a movie: O zelador, go get it, I watched it 4 times!)

b) Projecto Axé: well, Mestre Cobra Mansa is, as far as I see it, not a founder of the Projecto Axé, but works together with this movement to help hundreds of kids which are otherwise threatened by poverty and crime. The projecto Axé is part of the Black Movement in Brasil and tries to help on many different levels. Here is a site you can look that up.

c) Kilombo Tenonde: the Kilombo Tenonde project is the newest on Mestre Cobra Mansa’s list. Basically it consists of two components. One being a cultural center near Salvador, which is providing “communal and educational services” and the other being a farm near Valença, which is also serving as a platform for workshops, but also tries to sustain itself with organic farming and principles os sustainability. Here is the link for the website of Kilombo Tenonde.

…in the Roda

And last but not least one can start talking about him as a person in the Roda. His name, Cobra Mansa, can be translated as “tame snake”. This name was given him on basis of his agility and his cheerfulness while playing Capoeira “lauging all the time”. And he has kept this cheerfulness till today. What is amazing about him is that despite his cheerfulness in game he is not a softy when it comes to playing in the Roda. And he is no brute either. His playing style intermixes grace with malicia and fluidity with efficiency. I will leave it like that. If you wanna see more of him you just have to check youtube, where you find a lot of games of him.

Picture sourcehttp://neuroanthropology.net/2008/11/

More information:

Wikipedia

FICA-DC Blog

FICA DC

Kilombo Tenonde

Projeto Axé

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Mestre Moraes

moraes

Now, as we have heard a lot about the old mestres, both dead and alive ones. After these I want to focus on some masters of the younger generations. When Mestre Pastinha, the Velha Guarda and the Joao’s were responsible for Capoeira Angola’s survival, then the younger mestres (and many more) were responsible for Capoeira Angola’s worldwide success since the 1980’s. One of the first names I have to mention here is Mestre Moraes.

The person

Mestre Moraes was born as Pedro Martinez Trindade in Ilha de Maré on the 9th of February, 1950. His father, who is nowadays blind, was a Capoeirista himself and did introduce him to Capoeira at the age of 7. He started to learn Capoeira Angola in Mestre Pastinha’s academy, but back then Mestre Pastinha was already getting blind and his students, Mestre Joao Grande and Mestre Joao Pequeno, were running the school. In 1970 he joined the marines and was sent to Rio de Janeiro. There he started training some students which are nowadays known as masters, like Mestre Braga and Mestre Cobra Mansa. In 1980 he founded the Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho, one of today’s most known Capoeira Angola groups. When he came back to Salvador in 1982, he did notice that Capoeira Angola was almost extinct, the old mestres losing ground against the new elite of modern Capoeiristas. So he started organising rodas and trainings and did fight for the recognition of Capoeira Angola as the traditional art form underlying Capoeira. In the mid-80’s he and his Contra-Mestre Cobra Mansa were able to convice Mestre Joao Grande to get back to Capoeira Angola, with which they managed to bring back some heavy history into Capoeira. Today, GCAP does still exist and is one of the most traditional schhols of Capoeira Angola. Mestre Moraes himself did study English and does work as a teacher of English and Portuguese at a public school – alongside him being the Mestre of GCAP of course.

Embranquecimento

moraesde25

Everybody who knows a bit about the modern history of Capoeira Angola knows that Mestre Moraes did have a major in the resurrection of Capoeira Angola in the 1980’s. But, most people consider the person Mestre Moraes as being a bit difficult at best, outright annoying and racist at worst. Now how did this happen? First of all, Mestre Moraes is a guy who doesnt shut up when others would. He also does talk out when nobody wants him to. For him, this is his way to express what he considers to be important for Capoeira. That it doesnt get ripped of its African roots, that it doesnt turn into a sport practised by anyone without recognizing the blood and sweat people went through because they practised African rituals on Brazilian soil. One of the main points of his critics is that since Mestre Bimba’s introduction of “Capoeira Regional” Capoeira did undergo several changes in its perception and philosophy. As it got accepted in Brazilian society and also promoted as “the only true Brazilian national sport”, people started to introduce all kinds of novelties into Capoeira. I will name only a few: a cord system, Capoeira competitions and the reglementation of Capoeira in the National Boxing Federation. Today one word does express these changes: “whitening” of capoeira, or the Portuguese word “embranquecimento”. But the worst thing was not what they did introduce, but what was being neglected and oppressed in those times. That was the traditional Capoeira, the old mestres, the street rodas and the Afrobrazilian rituals in Capoeira Angola. Besides being neglected, during the times of the dictatorship, traditional street rodas were disrupted by the police. Everything which wasnt suiting the state’s policy was oppressed. Dictatorship went on in Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Thus, exactly the time when Capoeira Regional grew in extremo and Capoeira Angola shrinked to almost extinction.

African Movements

By the end of the dictatorship Mestre Moraes arrived in Salvador and saw everything being on the downslope. Now I dont know him personally and in those times when he was struggling with “the establishment” I was just being born. But I doubt that Capoeira Angola today would have been so strong if Mestre Moraes would just have sit back and opened up a small Capoeira Angola school in the Pelourinho neighborhood. His radical commitment to Afrobrazilian culture and the African values of traditional Capoeira was possibly the only response to the mainstream back then, which had a chance to survive. More than this. Capoeira Angola itself was so small back then that it was hardly possible to have its voice being noticed. This is the reason why the Angoleiros around Mestre Moraes established connections to Black Power movements like Ilê Aiyê and Olodum. Since then the connections between GCAP and black movements is pretty strong and pretty much stays like that. Surely, there are legitimate Capoeira Angola groups which are less radical in advocating African traditions in Capoeira Angola, but GCAP does have a strong influence in the whole Capoeira Angola scene – and is not only a legitimate, but also an important part of it. And Mestre Moraes, with all his radicality, is and stays one of the most important Mestres of Capoeira Angola.

And as it is with a lot of mestres, there is much more to tell about Mestre Moraes than his strong opinion about Embranquimento and Africanidade. He is, by the way, known for his excellent music. His first CD is a must in every Capoeiristas CD collection and his CD “brincando na roda” was nominated for the Grammy Award in 2004. In the field of music he did also codify the musical outfit of a Capoeira Angola bateria.

Other than that he is also known for his elaborate philosophy derived out of African spirituality. If you want an example of his philosopy just check the interview translated by Shayna McHugh on her Capoeira Connection site. Plus he is of course a very good player of Capoeira Angola and is known for his dominance in the Roda. And to finish this post, you can watch him play yourself, on the video below.

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O Gavião é o Cobra Mansa

joaos

Picture source: www.aquelequeenxergalonge.blogspot.com

Eu tenho dois irmãos
Todos dois, chama João
Um joga pelo ar
Outro joga pelo chão
Se um é cobra mansa
Sei que o outro é gavião, camaradinho

This is the third post in the series about Masters of Capoeira Angola. In the last two ones I did mainly write about Masters who already passed away, but are still important for Capoeira Angola as it is today. There are a lot of Mestres living today who also have had a great impact on Capoeira Angola. And now to the two Mestres I am gonna post about today.

Mestre Joao Grande (born 15th of January 1933) and Mestre Joao Pequeno (born on the 27th of December 1917, so Happy Birthday by the way) are two Mestres of who you can say that a majority of today’s Angoleiros trace back their heritage to one of these. Both were students and afterwards contra-mestres of Mestre Pastinha and Mestre Pastinha himself said that they will be the great Capoeiristas of the future.  Today both Angoleiros are of high ages, but still active in terms of teaching and playing in the Roda.

Today these two Mestres are something like idols. They get invited regularly to Capoeira happenings all of the world and get doctorate titles from different universities. And really, every Angoleiro wants to meet one or both of these Mestres, if there is a possibility to do so.

Mestre Joao Pequeno

Mestre Joao Pequeno was born as Joao Pereira dos Santos in Araci, Bahia, on the 27th December 1917. As a young man he fled from the poor area he grew up in and started working in different trades. During his freetime he learned Capoeira from different friends, until he moved to Salvador da Bahia with 25. Here he met Mestre Barbosa and learned Capoeira with him until he joined Mestre Pastinha’s Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola. Soon afterwards Joao Pequeno did teach under the supervision of his Mestre and did take over lessons by 1960 when Mestre Pastinha was not longer able to. In Mestre Pastinha’s school he also got the name Cobra Mansa, and Joao Pequeno. Here he did teach a lot of different Mestres who are all still legends of Capoeira Angola, like Mestre Curio, Mestre Moraes and also Mestre Joao Grande. Other Mestres who trace their lineage directly back to him are Mestre Jogo de Dentro, Barba Branca and Mestre Pé de Cumbo. In 1982, when Mestre Pastinha died, Mestre Joao Pequeno continued to teach and is still teaching in the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola (CECA) – Academia de Joao Pequeno da Pastinha.

Mestre Joao Grande

Mestre Joao Grande

 Joao Oliveira dos Santos aka Mestre Joao Grande was born in Itagi, Bahia at the 15th January, 1933. In the little village he was born in he spent his childhood on the farm and on plantations. When he became adolescent he started working as a migrant worker until he reached Salvador at the age of 20. The first street roda he saw was a Roda with the Mestres Barbosa, Joao Pequeno and Mestre Cobrinha Verde participating. He got excited, asked what this was, got told that it was Capoeira and was sent to Mestre Joao Pequeno to show him Capoeira. Mestre Joao Pequeno brought him to Mestre Pastinha’s Academy and taught him Capoeira. Being the student of Mestre Pastinha, Mestre Joao Pequeno and also learning with Mestres like Mestre Cobrinha Verde, Mestre Joao Grande (who was also named Gaviao) grew in Capoeira in became Mestre by 1966. He was (and still is) a popular Capoeirista, who was used by Carybe for his studies on Capoeira, and who did go on folkloristic shows, travelling throughout the world, showing Capoeira, Maculéle´and Puxada de Rede with the group “Viva Bahia”. When Mestre Pastinha died, Mestre Joao Grande did quit playing Capoeira and did earn a living with folkloristic dances and as musician. His students Mestre Moraes and Mestre Cobrinha did convice him to come back to Capoeira in the mid 80’s. In 1989 he was invited by jelon Viera on a tour to the U.S. The following year he did make another tour to the U.S. and stayed. Here he teaches in the Capoeira Angola Center of Mestre Joao Grande and from here he travels around the world, still trying to keep up the tradition of Capoeira Angola. The most important mestre Mestre Joao Grande did make is Mestre Moraes, who has a major influence in the Capoeira Angola world.

The informations I did post here about Cobra Mansa and o Gaviao are publicly available and as these two Mestres are so popular, you will find a lot more information. I still hope to be able to meet these Mestres, not only because I want to learn from them (there are a lot more Mestres I’d like to learn from), but because these men are living history! And at the end of this post I will again put one of my favourite Youtube videos, showing Mestre Joao Pequeno and Mestre Joao Grande back in 1968, when they were only 51 and 35 years old.

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Os Velhos Angoleiros

old-mestres

This is the second post in the “Mestre de Capoeira Angola” series on the Angoleiro Blog. While in the first post I concentrated on Mestre Pastinha for the reason that he is the most influential person of modern Capoeira Angola, I did not name all the other Mestres who were his contemporaries and who are also important for the development of Capoeira Angola in the 20th century. I will only give an overview of some of the most known and important mestres. Beforehand I also will have to say that there are a lot of Mestres out there which I will not mention although they deserve better. This is not because I disregard them intentionally, but because a) I dont know much about them b) I dont know nothing about them or c) that I forgot about them. So if one of you readers do see that I am missing out on some interesting/important old Mestre of Capoeira Angola (who was not Mestre Pastinha’s student or contemporary), please tell me – and maybe add some information about that mestre yourself, thus completing this post.

As I mentioned before Mestre Pastinha was not the only Mestre out there. He was one amongst many. Still, he was elected by other Mestres to save Capoeira Angola. This is the reason why most people do only know his name when they think of old Mestres of Capoeira Angola. With this post I’d like to introduce you to some of the other important names of Capoeira Angola.

Mestre Aberrê

Raimundo Agolo aka Mestre Aberrê is one of those Mestres most people dont know at all. He was actually Mestre Pastinhas student in those years, when Mestre Pastinha was not having an Academy. Mestre Aberrê was the mestre of Mestre Canjiquinha, who is another important personality of Capoeira Angola. But his achievement was more than this. Mestre Aberrê was the one who did invite Mestre Pastinha in 1941, when people needed a mestre to re-establish the traditional Capoeira, to teach Capoeira Angola.

Mestre Bimba

bimba

Manuel dos Reis Machado (1899-1974) aka Mestre Bimba is another important Mestre of Capoeira Angola. Now some people might be pretty surprised to see Mestre Bimba on this list.  I will dedicate a post to him another time, but I didnt want this list to be lacking him. Because although he might have changed so many things about traditional Capoeira that still many Angoleiros are opinionated about him, his mastery of Capoeira Angola is not questioned. And also his importance for Capoeira in general.

Mestre Caicara

caicara

Antonio Carlos Moraes (1924-1997) aka Mestre Caicara was a mestre representing the connection of Capoeira to the streets and to the criminal elements on them. In his time he was a leading figure in the street scene of the Pelourinho. He knew it all about the criminals, the gangs and the prostitutes of the streets there and he was the one to ask if you wanted to get around. But he was not only a central figure in the street politics of his neighborhood, he was also a Capoeira master with a hard and efficient style (quite different from the softer style of Mestre Pastinha) and he was a great singer whose CD is still recommended as a must-buy for every Capoeira CD collection (I myself dont have that CD, but I think I’ll try to get my greedy hands on it).

Mestre Canjiquinha

canjiquinha

Washington Bruno da Silva aka Mestre Canjiquinha (1925-1994) was a very important personality in Capoeira Angola. He liked to describe himself as “the Joy of Capoeira” and was known for his tolerance, his good humor and his demonstration skills. He was also one of the few Mestres who did deny that there was a difference between Capoeira Angola and Regional (for him it was just a matter of rhythm). In his demonstrations he did not only show Capoeira, but also other Afrobrazilian dances including the Maculele. He said that he was the first one to introduce Maculele into Capoeira shows. Besides that he was also acting in different Brazilian movies displaying Capoeira and he also left a number of highly skilled mestres (not every mestre did that) like Mestre Paulo dos Anjos, Mestre Brasília and Mestre Lua Rasta. If you want to read more of (and by) him, download his book translated by Shayna McHugh on her site Capoeira Connection.

Mestre Cobrinha Verde

cobrinha-verde

Rafael Alves Franca (ca.1910-1983) aka Mestre Cobrinha Verde grew up with Capoeira on the streets, played with thugs. He says that he was the cousin of Besouro Manganga himself and that Besouro was his first Mestre. Cobrinha Verdes roda was one of the most respected rodas alongside those of M Bimba, M Pastinha and M Waldemar. You can find more information of and by him in his book Capoeira e Mandingas, which you can also find on the Capoeira Connection site.

Mestre Leopolodina

leopoldina

Mestre Leopoldina (1933-2007) is one of the most popular Mestres who represented the “old guard” of Mestres when most of them had already died. Now he is dead himself, but does stay in the memories of both Angoleiros and Regionalistas as a good humored old master, representing the old style of Capoeira Carioca and the malicia and malandragem of traditional Capoeira. There is plenty of footage considering him, but the most recommendable thing to do is to check out the movie about him. “Mestre Leopoldina – a fina flor da malandragem“, a smart and interesting portrait of the old mestre and his life in Rio and in Capoeira.

Mestre Traira

traira

Joao Ramos do Nascimento (1925-1975) aka Mestre Traira is one of those mestres you hear least of. He does have a part in the movie Vadiacao (1954) and did record Capoeira rhythms together with Mestre Cobrinha Verde. Other than that he is known to have had an agile, fast game, which was “only comparable to Mestre Pastinha’s” as Jorge Amado describes. Although it is said that he didnt leave any pupils or followers there is at least one Mestre who did start Capoeira Angola with him (Mestre Barba Branca from Grupo Capoeira Angola Cabula).

Mestre Waldemar

Mestre Waldemar

Waldemar Rodrigues da Paixâo (1916-1990) aka Mestre Waldemar was especially known for his Roda. The Roda at Mestre Waldemar’s hut was one of the few legendary rodas in Salvador and the place to be on Sundays to see the old mestres play. The roda was known for its diversity of games displayed, from the slowest ones to the hardest games. His Roda was also point of reference for many artists and intellectuals who were trying to underline the importance of African influence on (Afro-)Brazilian culture. One of these was Carybé who did make his paintings inspired by the scenes he saw at Mestre Waldemar’s roda. Other than that Mestre Waldemar was also known for his Berimbaus and does claim to be the first one who started to paint his Berimbaus (a common practise among Angoleiros today). Later he started suffering under Parkinson’s disease and stopped playing Capoeira. He is not known to have left any students (edit: I seem to be wrong with this last sentence, as you see in the comments, Mestre Waldemar did leave students. I just seem to not have found them mentioned…My apologies to his students).

 

As you people see, most of the mestres I mentioned died in and around the 90’s or at least in the last decades of the 20th century. They represent a generation of Angoleiros most of us dont know at all, both Regionalistas and Angoleiros. As the concept of lineage is very important among Angoleiros it is still good to know about them, cause most if not all of today’s mestres of Capoeira do trace back their Capoeira to one of these Mestres (ok, a majority do trace back their Capoeira to Mestre Pastinha, what a surprise!). But there are other old mestres of Capoeira Angola still alive today, and those will be the topic of my next post in the series about Mestres of Capoeira Angola.

Note on pictures: most pictures of the mestres are commonly available pictures you can get anywhere on the web. My favourite picture of this post is the very first one showing several of the old angoleiros in salvador of the year 1982. From left to right those are: Mestre Joao Grande, the son of Cobrinha Verde, Mestre Joao Pequeno, Mestre Cobrinha Verde, Mestre Canjiquinha and Mestre Waldemar. The picture can be found on the site http://www.suldabahiaperu.com/ .

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O menino quem foi seu Mestre?

Mestre Pastinha

Menino, quem foi seu mestre ?
Quem te ensinou a brincar
O teu mestre foi Besouro
Aprendeu com Manganga

Eu aprendi com Pastinha
Quero contigo Brincar
A capoeira de angola
A africano quem mandou

Na capital de Salvador
Foi pastinha que me ensinou
Na roda de capoeira
Reconheço esse valor

(M.Joao Pequeno)

At the 13th November 1981 Vincente Ferreira Pastinha, known to the world as Mestre Pastinha, died at the age of 92. Today that is 27 years ago. The only reason why I write this post is to remind everybody of one of the biggest and most important Mestres of Capoeira. I wont go into the details of his life. When he was born, who did teach him capoeira, why, and when he started to teach Capoeira. There is enough sources for that, and everybody who is interested will find the information. Important is what Mestre Pastinha stands for.

Mestre Pastinha stands for the tradition of Capoeira Angola. He is the Mestre of Capoeira Angola. He was not the only one around and not all Angoleiros are from his lineage. But he did do for Capoeira Angola what Mestre Bimba did for the recognition of Capoeira. Both Mestres were not the sole reason for the re-collection of traditions (Pastinha) or for the social integration (Bimba) of Capoeira. But both of them gave these specific processes a face. A name and a point of reference.

What Mestre Pastinha did was keeping up and teaching the traditional Bahian capoeira in a time when Capoeira Angola started to vanish from the streets. Other Mestres of Capoeira did give him the duty and the responsibility to keep up the traditions. And although he was of higher age already, he did start teaching people, building up students who would pass on Capoeira Angola. Without Mestre Pastinha, there wouldnt have been a Mestre Joao Grande, a Mestre Joao Pequeno, a Mestre Moraes, a Mestre Cobrinha, a Mestre Jogo de Dentro… all the people and their organizations which make Capoeira Angola the smaller but definitely not less important part of today’s Capoeira. Not only today’s Capoeira Angola Community, but also the general Capoeira world would have been totally different – and I think far less attractive – if he wouldnt have done his job.  Would there be another one who would have taken the responsibility? No one knows for sure. But what we know is that he did it. And he did it in the best way possible. Concentrating on everything what Capoeira was losing in a time when Capoeira was getting more popular among Brazilian society, but only if it was stripped of it’s Mandinga, Brincadeira, rituals, spirituality, individuality and – to sum it up – it’s soul. He did resist all these temptations and died miserably.

It’s sad that his role in keeping traditional Capoeira alive was only fully comprehended when he was already dead, but that’s often with big personalities in history. We can’t change history, but we can keep his work up. I dont expect it from everybody, just somebody has to do it. And those who are mostly (but not solely) responsible for this are the Mestres, especially the ones who dedicate themselves to Capoeira Angola.

This is the reason why in future I will also post more about specific Mestres of Capoeira Angola, and their achievements and ways to keep up the heritage of Mestre Pastinha. And with this I will finish now and hope that I did a small contribution to the memory of Mestre Pastinha.

 

Axé!

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