The berimbau is a single-string percussion instrument, a musical bow, from Brazil. The berimbau's origins are not entirely clear, but there is not much doubt on its African origin, as no Indigenous Brazilian or European people use musical bows, and very similar instruments are played in the southern parts of Africa.fact|date=August 2008 The berimbau was eventually incorporated into the practice of the Afro-Brazilian martial art "capoeira", where it commands how the capoeiristas move in the "roda". The instrument is known for being the subject matter of a popular song by Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The instrument is also a part of Candomblé-de-caboclo tradition.


The berimbau consists of a wooden bow ("verga" – traditionally made from "biriba" wood, which grows in Brazil), about 4 to convert|5|ft|m long (1.2 to 1.5 m), with a steel string ("arame" – often pulled from the inside of an automobile tire) tightly strung and secured from one end of the verga to the other. A gourd ("cabaça"), dried, opened and hollowed-out, attached to the lower portion of the Verga by a loop of tough string, acts as a resonator.

Since the 1950s, Brazilian berimbaus have been painted in bright colors, following local Bahian/Brazilian taste; today, most makers follow the tourist consumer's quest for (pretended) authenticity, and use clear varnish and discreet decoration.

To play the berimbau, one holds it in one hand, wrapping the two middle fingers around the verga, and placing the little finger under the cabaça's string loop (the "anel"), and balancing the weight there. A small stone or coin ("dobrão") is held between the index and thumb of the same hand that holds the berimbau. The cabaça is rested against the abdomen. In the other hand, one holds a stick ("baqueta" or "vaqueta" – usually wooden, very rarely made of metal) and a shaker ("caxixi"). One strikes the arame with the vaqueta to produce the sound. The caxixi accompanies the vaqueta. The dobrão is moved back and forth from the arame to change the tone of the berimbau. The sound can also be altered by moving the cabaça back and forth from the abdomen, producing a wah-like sound.

Parts and accessories of the berimbau:
*Verga: Wooden bow that makes up the main body of the Berimbau.
*Arame: Steel string.
*Cabaça: Opened, dried and hollowed out gourd secured to the lower portion of the berimbau, used to amplify and resonate the sound.
*Dobrão: Small stone or coin pressed against the arame to change the tone of the berimbau.
*Baqueta: Small stick struck against the arame to produce the sound.
*Caxixí: Small rattle that optionally accompanies the vaqueta in the same hand.

Capoeiristas split berimbaus in three categories:
*"Berra-boi" or gunga: lowest tone.
*Médio (others say viola): medium tone.
*Viola (violinha if the medium tone is viola): highest tone

These categories relate to sound, not to size. The berimbau's quality does not depend on the length of the verga or the size of the gourd, rather on the diameter and hardness of the verga's wood and the quality of the gourd.


The berimbau, as played for capoeira, basically has three sounds: the open string sound, the high sound, and the buzz sound.

*In playing the buzz sound, one holds easily the gourd closed against one's belly, while touching the string with the dobrão. A muted "tch" sound emerges.

*To play the open string sound, one strikes the string less than an inch up from the gourd string, with the bow balanced on the little finger so that the gourd is opened. One can grossly tune the open sound, by loosening the arame, and by sliding the gourd a little up or down from the place where the sound is best.

*To produce the high sound, one must hold the bow in the same way, gourd opened, and forcefully press the dobrão on the string. The sound differs from the low sound in tone and in timbre. Old recordings and musicians report that the difference in tone used to be about 1 tone (the interval from C to D). One can press the dobrão away enough from the gourd for this only if the bow is about convert|4|ft|m to 4 feet 2 inches (122 to 127 cm); that was the length of the bows in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, many berimbaus are overgrown to 5 feet (150 cm) , and tuning options are limited in berimbau ensembles.

Other sounds may appear in a berimbau performance, but only these define capoeira's rhythmic patterns (except Iuna).

Closing and opening the gourd while the string resounds produces a wah-wah effects, which depends on how large the gourd opening is. Whether this effect is desirable or not is a matter of controversy. Pressing the dobrão after striking the string is a widely used technique; so is closing neatly the gourd while the string resounds to shut off the sound. A specific toque requires the open string sound with closed gourd. Musicians use whatever sound they may get out of the string. It is not often considered bad practice to strike other parts of the instrument. As with most aspects of playing the berimbau, the names of the techniques differ from teacher to teacher. Most teachers, and most students, worry more about producing a nice sound than about naming the individual sounds.

Of course, the strength (velocity, accent) with which one lets the vaqueta hit the string is paramount to rhythm quality. The open sound is naturally stronger (meaning that, for a constant-strength strike, the other two sound weaker), but the musician may decide which strikes to stress. Also, the sound tone shifts a little with the strength of the strike, and some sophisticated toques make use of this.

Use in capoeira

In capoeira, the music required from the berimbau is essentially rhythmic. Most of the patterns, or toques, derive from a single 8 unit basic structure:

(Note: all characters, including the '.', denote equal time: 'x' = the buzz sound; 'L' = tone; 'H' = high tone; '.' = a rest, no action.)

Notation Key

. rest
x buzzed note
L Low tone
H Hight tone
(...) Bar (music) of 2 to 4 beats, 8 - 16 subdivisions/units
(..|..) Two or more bars
., x, L, H are of equal length and represent the smallest subdivision of the bar

Capoeira musicians produce many variations upon this pattern. They give names to known variations, and when such a named variation occurs repeatedly (but not exclusively) while playing, they call what they are playing by the name of that variation. The most common names are "Angola" and "São Bento Grande". There is much talking about the meaning of these terms. There is no short way to wisdom in capoeira, one has to make one's own mind.

In capoeira, up to three Berimbaus may play together, each with a loosely defined role:

*The gunga plays the bass line, rarely improvising its rhythm (in capoeira, it takes much patience to play gunga). The person playing the gunga at the beginning of a roda is often the leader of the roda and the other instruments follow as well. The gunga player may also lead the singing, which is made easier by the simple rhythm and little variation that he plays. The gunga is used to call players to the pé-do-berimbau (foot of the berimbau, where players enter the game).

*The médio complements the gunga. For instance, while the gunga may play a simple, eight-unit pattern like (xxL.H.H.), the viola (or médio) can play a sixteen-unit variation, like (xxL.xLHL|.xL.H.H.). The dialog between gunga and viola (or médio) gives the "toque" its character. In the context of capoeira angola, the médio inverts the gunga's melody (angola toque): (xxL.H...) by playing São Bento Pequeno: (xxH.L...) with moderate improvisation.

*The viola (or violinha) plays mostly variations and improvisations on the main rhythm defined by the two others. The viola player will often syncopate and break to accentuate the songs.

There is no further general rule. Every master has his own requirements for the interaction between musicians. Some want all the instruments in unison. Others reserve uniform play for beginners and require significant variation from their advanced students, as long as the characteristic of the "toque" is not blurred.

Tuning in capoeira is also loosely defined. The berimbau is a microtonal instrument and while one can be tuned to play a major or minor 2nd, the actual tone is approximately a neutral second lying between a whole and half tone.

The berimbaus may be tuned to the same pitch, differing only in timbre. More commonly, low note of the médio is tuned in unison to the high note of the Gunga, and likewise for the viola to the médio. Others like to tune the instruments in 4ths (C, F, B flat) or a triad (C, E, G). Any tuning is acceptable provided it sounds good to the master's ear.

There are countless different rhythms or "toques" played on the berimbau. Capoeiristas and masters engage in endless debate about the denominations of the rhythms, the loose or tight relations of any definite rhythmic pattern to a toque name, to speed of execution, and to the type of Capoeira game it calls for. Each group delivers its own definitions to beginners.


Common toques names are:

* Angola: rests on (does not play) the last beat of the basic leaving (xxL.H...)
* São Bento Pequeno/Angola Invertido: similar to Angola but with the high and low tones reversed (xxH.L...). São Bento Pequeno is typically played on Médio in conjunction with Angola on the Gunga.
* São Bento Grande: Adds an extra hit to São Bento Pequeno, (xxH.L.L.)
* São Bento Grande de Regional (or simply Regional): An innovation of Mestre Bimba, is often played in the two bar pattern (xxL.xxH.|xxL.L.H.)
* Toque de Iúna: Introduced to capoeira by Mestre Bimba. (L-L-L-L-L-xxL-L.) (the '-' = touching the dobrão to the arame without hitting).
* Cavalaria: In the past, used to warn Capoeiristas of the approach of police. (L.xxL.xxL.xxL.H.) is one example, variations exist.

In notating the toques, it is a convention to begin with the two buzzed tones, however it is worthwhile to note that they are pickups to the downbeat, and would more properly be transcribed: xx(L.H...xx)

São Bento Grande as played in a regional setting places the main stress or downbeat at the final L so that it sounds: (L.xxH.L.|L.xxH.L.L)

Other toques include Idalina: (L.L.x.H.|xxL.L.H.), Amazonas: (xxLLxxLH|xxLLLLLH), Banguela: (xxL.H.H.), all deriving from the basic capoeira pattern. The toque called "Santa Maria" is a four bar transcription of the corridos "Santa Maria" and "Apanha Laranja no Chão Tico Tico". (xxL.LLL.|xxL.LLH.|xxH.HHH.|xxH.LHL.)

Capoeiristas also play samba, before or after capoeira, with the proper toques, deriving from the samba de roda rhythmic pattern: (xxH.xxH.xx.H.HH.)

Berimbau players in other styles of music

*Candomblé-de-caboclo songs have been recorded by ethnomusicologists to the accompaniment of berimbau. Musicians have also played Ketu, Gêgê and Angola candomblé rhythm patterns on berimbau, but this does not appear to have any relationship either with the cults or with capoeira.
*Berimbau has appeared in a number of bands as a marker of Afro-Brazilian origin.
*Nana Vasconcelos, since the late 1970s, has played berimbau and other percussion with modern jazz musicians worldwide.
*Paulinho Da Costa - A highly sought after studio musician.
*Dinho Nascimento, more recently, has used berimbau as his main instrument for music recording.
*Max Cavalera - Lead singer and guitarist in metal bands Sepultura, Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy.
*Airto Moreira - Brazilian percussionist, works with many musicians and combines many styles from different continents.
*Ney Rosauro - Brazilian percussionist and composer of contemporary classical music has utilized the Berimbau in several of his compositions for orchestra and percussion ensemble.
*Greg Beyer - Percussionist and professor at Northern Illinois University. Spearheading a project titled O Berimbau to bring the Berimbau and other such musical bows into the world of western compositions.
*Cut Chemist - Turntablist of such groups as Ozomatli and Jurassic 5 made use of the Berimbau in his single "The Garden," off his album The Audience's Listening.

Similar Instruments

The Siddi of India, who are the descendants of East African immigrants, play a similar instrument called the malunga.

ee also

*Capoeira songs
*Musical bow

External links

* [ "Berimbau" Free berimbau instructional videos taught by Mestre Virgulino.]
* [ "Berimbau" how to setup a berimbau, how to play a berimbau, berimbau information]
* [ "Berimbau" song lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes]
* [ "The Berimbau Page at Rhythmweb]
* [ "Berimbau" by Richard P. Graham and N. Scott Robinson]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем сделать НИР

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Berimbau — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Tres Berimbaus …   Wikipedia Español

  • Berimbau —   [portugiesisch, berim bo], Kalebassenbogen (»Musikbogen«) afrikanischer Herkunft, dominierendes Instrument in der brasilianischen Capoeira, ein aus der Sklavenzeit stammendes Kampfspiel, das heute vielfach zu einer akrobatischen Attraktion… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • bérimbau — ● bérimbau, bérimbaus nom masculin Instrument de musique d origine brésilienne, dont l unique corde est tendue entre les extrémités d un arc et frappée avec une tige de bois …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • berimbau — s. m. Pequeno instrumento infantil, de ferro, que as crianças tocam, segurando o com os dentes …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • Berimbau — Drei Berimbau mit Klangkörpern in unterschiedlichen Tonhöhen Caxixi, V …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Berimbau — Le berimbau, gunga ou viola est un instrument de musique à corde brésilien. C est un arc musical sans doute d origine africaine (instrument traditionnel des peuples Kambas) dont des variétés similaires sont aussi utilisées dans l Océan… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Berimbau — El berimbau es un instrumento musical hecho de una vara de madera flexible (en portugués beriba, de allí el nombre) y un alambre que se tensan formando una especie de arco, al que se le agrega una calabaza, que sirve como resonador. De acuerdo a… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • berimbau — be·rim·bau (bə rēɴmʹbou) n. A musical instrument with a gourd resonator and a single steel wire stretched across a long pole or stick.   [Portuguese, from Kimbundu mbi rimbau: mbi , n. pref. + rimbau, berimbau.] * * * …   Universalium

  • berimbau — noun A musical instrument, consisting of a gourd (as resonator) and a single wire stretched along a pole, used in Brazil …   Wiktionary

  • berimbau — be·rim·bau …   English syllables

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”