Tag Archives: GCAP

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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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/

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