Tag Archives: Dance

African Roots – series on Angoleiro’s Blog

Ié!                                                    Ié!

Capoeira é uma arte,                       Capoeira is an art,

Capoeira é uma arte,                       Capoeira is an art,

Que o negrou inventou.                   which the negro invented.

Foi na briga de duas zebras              In the brawl between two zebras

que N’Golo se criou.                         the N’Golo did evolve.

Chegando aqui no Brasil                  As it arrived here in Brazil

Capoeira se chamou.                       it was called Capoeira.

Ginga e danca que era arte              The Ginga and the dance, which were an art,

em arme se transformou                 did transform into a weapon

Para libertar o negro                        to liberate the negro

da senzala do senhor.                      from the Senzala of the lord (slave owner).

Hoje aprendo essa cultura               Today I learn this culture

para me conscientizar.                     to increase my awareness

Agracedo ao Pai Ogum,                    Praise to Father Ogum,

A forca dos Orixás,                          the power of the Orixás,

Camará!                                           Comrade!

(Ladainha from Grupo Capoeira Angola Pelourinho*)


Starting aound 1550 the Portuguese started to import millions of Africans into Brazil. Over three hundred years, Black men and women were robbed and bought in Africa, treated like animals, transported over the Atlantic under unhuman conditions and had to work hard for essentially nothing. They were slaves.

Regarding those slaves who were imported there is one quote I read somewhere (I really dont know anymore where) and that is: “Those slaves might have come empty handed, but they did not come empty headed.” What came with them is their complete belief systems, music, rituals, world view, traditions, knowledge, language, arts, willpower and so on. And one thing which came with them is a form of dance/fight combining different concepts like beauty and strength, acrobatics and music, dance and violence.

Today’s Capoeira Angola does have a lot to do with awareness. Being aware of Capoeira’s roots, being aware that the African element in this art is of utterly high importance. Without it’s Africanity, Capoeira would degenerate into a fancy but soulless martial art. Capoeira, and especially Capoeira Angola, does live from its rituals, it game, its music and its history. In a discussion** I read and participated in on the Blog Mandingueira I realized that this awareness has to be maintained and increased in the present Capoeira Community.

But: Writing about Africanity in Capoeira is a mammoth task. Actually you could write a book about it and still would not have described everything there is to describe. 400 years of Capoeira practice mainly by Africans and Afrobrazilians did lead to the situation that every facette of Capoeira does have major African influences (admittedly there are European influences, too, since Portuguese lower class and sailors did start playing Capoeira in the 19th century and since Mestre Bimba started teaching white students). This is the reason why I will start the first cohesive series of posts on this Blog: African Roots. I hope that I will at least be able to give an overview about Africanity in Capoeira and I hope that there are people out there willing to add to the upcoming posts their knowledge about this topic, thus making these posts a richer source for people who make their first steps in exploring the roots of Capoeira.

Have an eye on this blog in the next few days. Cause then the first posts of the African Roots series will be published.


*if there are mistakes in the translation it is because of my lack of Portuguese. Corrections are welcome!

**special thanks to Kimbandeira for starting that discussion on Mandingueira



Filed under African Roots

A Chamada – the Game in the Game

The Call

Before I start telling you things about the Chamada I have to explain why I am doing it.

In the last few years I have seen many Capoeiristas, students learning Capoeira Regional, Contemporeana AND Angola, being quite surprised when the other one lifted his hands to the Chamada. Most of them usually did not know how to react. Some did not even know what was happening at all. Those where the ones who never saw a Capoeira Angola game at all. In Capoeira Angola, there is a subroutine, a game in the game itself, and that is called Chamada. I am able to explain aspects of it, but definitely not everything around it, because it is like trying to explain Capoeira. It is nothing for words, more something you have to see, or – and this is the best – to experience yourself! I tried to find some online material about the Chamada, and found either surface information, or throughout bad information. I already have written little things about the Chamada, but not really detailed. So I decided to write another post and make you comment and add information – so that more people have at least an idea about the Chamada.

What is the Chamada?

Chamada can be translated as “The Call”. It is the situation when the Capoeira Angola game changes it´s pace and one of the players stands in a ritualistic stance, calling the other player to come to him and engage into a ritual-like dance. The Chamada is one of the least understood and least explained parts of a Capoeira Angola game. Yet, a Capoeira Angola Roda without a Chamada would miss a lot of its fascination.

Why do people do the Chamada?

There are about a zillion reasons, why you could start a Chamada. Usually it is one of these reasons:

  • You got tired and want to have a breath, the Chamada will give you a couple of seconds of rest, although (as I will explain later) rest does not mean that you can relax…
  • The players did not have a compatible game. Sometimes two players have difficulties getting along with each other and do entangle themselves in ugly little trouble. To calm down a situation like this, a Chamada comes in handy.
  • One player got hit. If unintentionally, the Chamada will help focus the concentration, if intentionally, the Chamada will help calming down the mood.
  • One player wants to test the abilities of the other. Usually a beginner or not-so-advanced player wont see and know all the subtleties of a Chamada. So the Chamada is also a good test, how good and advanced a player really is. There are a lot of youngsters out there who are able to do the fanciest movements or don’t have to be afraid of any opponent, but they get lost in a Chamada.

Are there rules about the Chamada?

Shortly said: there are no real rules about the Chamada. There are actually different ritualistic positions for the Chamada and it is good to know as much of them as possible. As there are many different positions it is good to try to remember every position – and the possible dangers of those. Generally, a Chamada is divided into the Intro, the Dance and the Leaving of the Chamada. All these are ruled by the one who “calls”. He calls the other player, who has to come, he does give the Dance its speed and rhythm, and he does say when the Chamada goes to an end and in which direction the game shall go on.

Oh, I forgot, there is one rule-of-thumb which is just very smart for the average player: do not call the mestre. As I said before, the Chamada is also some kind of test. Some Mestres do have issues with students calling them into the Chamada, and you don’t want to find out the hard way, do you?

The most important thing…

…is that the Chamada is still happening in the Roda. And in the Roda you have the general rule: be aware. Nobody says that the Chamada will end a peaceful way. There is always a possibility that a Tesoura is coming in the middle of the Chamada. And if you approach, be aware, that the knee, the elbow or the head of the caller are always very close. You come into close contact with the other person. You actually do touch the person for a longer time (which is not very common in an Angola game). So every step during the Chamada is dangerous and does call for a high level of attention by the player (so much about relaxing, as I said earlier in this post).

The approach

You are playing in the roda. Suddenly your partner does make a couple of steps away from you and lifts both hands, facing you, waiting. You have to approach. There is no rule how you should approach. It is mostly group-specific. Some groups do have the rule that the one who is called can show his acrobactic abilities for a while and then approach. Some teachers do attack you when you do not respond to their Chamada immediately. In most cases it seems to be ok to move on the ground, approaching slowly.

It is always important to be highly attentive when you approach. It is sometimes said that the approach and the leaving of the Chamada are the most dangerous situations. I disagree. As long as you are in close contact to the other player, engaging in the Chamada, attention and alertness are the things you have to rely on. And this is not only the fact for the approach and the leaving, it is also important between these two situations.

While you are coming closer and closer, do use your arms to defend yourself against upcoming knees, feet or downcoming elbows, until you are in a position when you are very close to him and are still quite save.

The Dance

Then the Dance begins. If you have the passive part, you follow your partner. Be alert, he might set up a trap. If he sees that you are alert, he might refrain from trapping you. You will feel the tension in yourself, and if your partner is good, he will seem not to be tensed at all!

Getting out

And the end of the Chamada, the person who called will show the Way. He will point to the direction in which the game should continue. You are not obliged to go that way, because it might be a trap, too. But most people still follow the game, of course being alert (again).

Which types of Chamadas are there?

When I think about it, I might know something like 6 or 7 types of Chamada. I know there are much more, but I think I know the most common ones. Describing them is impossible. I will just post links to different types of Chamadas. But while watching these videos, do mind that there are the little subtleties which are very important for the Chamada. When you go into the Chamada, you usually know and think about the exact position of your hands, your feet and your head – and the position of the same of your partner. Especially if you are the one who has been called AND if the one who called you is a Mestre!


The first video does show a teaching session, showing one of the classic Chamadas. Mind that the way this guy teaches this is not reaaaally the nicest. A Chamada has much more of a dancelike and ritualistic appearance than just five steps forward and back, and showing to the ground. The second video, which is displaying three Chamada situations, is much nicer (at least for an Angoleiro 😉 ). It does show two other common types of Chamada (the one where the Caller turns his back to the called person and the one where the called person has to bow down and is in close proximity and in the ideal position for a knee hit). The video does also show that not only the person calling can attack. Both persons are in danger of getting a take down or a serious hit. The third video I found about this is really nice, cause it shows Mestre Joao Grande in action. In this video you see the 4 most common types of Chamada. But there is also another lesson to learn from this game. At 2 minutes 30 you see that he lifts his hands into the air, calling the other player into the Chamada. What the other player was supposed to do is also lift both his hands, which is of course quite a danger. And Mestre Joao Grande does directly show why, because then you are vulnerable to a Cabecada. Much more interesting for us here is that the Mestre called the other player, let him approach, and directly attacked him, thus stopping the Chamada ritual and continue playing “normal”. A Chamada doesnt have to end in the normal ritualistic way. It can end at any given time with an attack.

More information?

Is there more you know about the Chamada? Other things I forgot to tell cause I got lost in this huge bulk of text (hey, I’m not a professional writer!)? Is there anything I could learn about the Chamada and you could tell me? Please do! It’s kind of sad that there is so little information online to be found about the Chamada. And if some of you did find good information, Just post the link! That would be great!

I hope this post did help you understand a bit about the Chamada. I know that it is also pretty undetailed information and that it does not really go into the philosophy of the Chamada (and there is most definitely a huge bulk of philosophy behind it), but hey, at least I set a beginning with this post, right?


Filed under The Game