Sunday, 16 November 2008

Spreading the word about Capoeira and its roots

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Dancer Frances Santana teaching samba-de-roda

Friday, 14 November 2008

Mestres João Grande and Cobrinha

You can hear Moraes singing in the background - this was probably shot shortly before I joined GCAP.

Monday, 10 November 2008

My last roda?

João Grande invited me to play in his roda when I visited his school in New York in February 2007. I've just realised that, for health reasons, that might be the last time I'll ever play Capoeira, so I've decided to post it. I started out a bit rusty - I hadn't played in over 10 years - but limbered up towards the end (I'm the one in the blue jeans).

João Grande on Berimbau

When I first met João Grande in 1987, this legendary Capoeira master was performing for tourists at restaurant (A Moenda), playing berimbau and wearing a giant floppy Mexican hat. Now he has an honorary PhD and his own school in NYC. There is justice in this world, pre- and post-Obama.

João Grande - one of Capoeira's greatest "jazz stylists"

I filmed this in February 2007 and am publishing it as a respectful tribute to a great friend and talented Capoeirista who happens to be - in my humble opinion - one of the great unknown jazz stylists of our time - "Capoeira jazz." Enjoy.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Back to 1987 - Jumping ship (part 2)

Continuing where I left off a while back

Back then, Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá had a shop at the Hotel Pelourinho in the historic district of Salvador, which sold beads and all the other items that Orisha worshippers require. I went there straight after my first meeting with Mãe Stella and asked for Oshun beads. They asked me, which kind? I had no idea. Was my Oshun young or old? I didn't have a clue. So I decided to go for the colour that "spoke" to me. I have always liked yellow and yellow-brown stones - cat's eyes, brown and yellow topaz and amber, so I chose the dark amber beads and later had them "washed" with herbs to make them sacred. Otherwise, they'd just be a necklace. I found out soon afterwards that I'd made the right choice.

At some point during my wanderings that day, I stopped by the fort (now the Capoeira Fort) in Santo Antonio Além do Carmo. GCAP was closed for the day, but João Pequeno was sitting alone in his school right below it, on the ground floor. I walked through the door that gave onto the courtyard and greeted him, telling him of my decision to stay. I don't remember his exact words, but the idea behind them was clear - I had to stay in Bahia and help develop Capoeira, for myself and others.

So I stayed on, training three times a week, with "rodas" on Saturdays and Sundays. I've been asked about those training sessions, so I'll try to describe them - we formed rows and did certain moves over and over and over again, individually at first, then in pairs. Practicing the negativa that way was good for me because it built up my upper arm strength - something that is generally a challenge for women in Capoeira. It's the move that allows you to keep low to the ground while someone's foot or leg sweeps over you. Your arms take your weight as you lower your entire body to the ground, so you can spring up and smoothly move into a counterattack.

Training at GCAP was very different from learning the Regional style, which generally involves set sequences of defensive and offensive moves. We learned our Angola moves one at a time and only put them together in the "roda." We also practiced handstands, backbends and aus (cartwheels) - but the slow low style, not the high flashy Regional "star".

I'll never forget that, when I met up with Paris in São Paulo that year - the last time I'd see him, as it turned out - he asked if I'd finally learned the au. It was the one thing I thought would be easy and turned out to be impossible - at least, in LA. He was impressed when I said I finally had - but unfortunately I couldn't show him because we were in a busy bus station at the time. So the method worked. I also learned to walk on my hands and do front flips (but never back flips) and continued to play in the "roda" until I was seven months pregnant in 1988. (To be continued...)

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Nas on Colbert Report re Racism on Fox

Fox petition delivered

On Wednesday, Fox got a taste of what can happen when folks who care about racial justice come together and push back. The seconds you took to sign the Fox petition helped create a major story in the mainstream media. Here's how it unfolded on Wednesday:

1:00 p.m. Your signature was printed off at a New York City Kinko's along with 620,126 others--filling 19 big boxes.

2:00 p.m. The signatures were piled in front of Fox's national headquarters at 6th Avenue and 48th Street.

3:15 p.m. Hip hop star Nas (whose new album had just risen to #1 on the Billboard charts hours earlier) joined over 100 members and delivered the petitions to Fox on behalf of ColorOfChange, MoveOn, and Brave New Films.

3:30 p.m. Fox refused to accept the petitions. (Sometimes, the truth hurts.)

4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. News of Fox's racism and the star-studded petition delivery made its way around the world--with stories in Vibe, Rolling Stone, Billboard, USA Today, Associated Press, Reuters, Bossip, Huffington Post, MTV, OpenLeft, and over 200 other places.

11:30 p.m. Stephen Colbert welcomed Nas as his guest on the Colbert Report and dedicated over half of his show to Fox's racism. The boxes containing our signatures were stacked prominently on Colbert's set in place of his normal interview table and chairs--and he conducted the entire interview surrounded by petitions! Then, Nas performed his new song "Sly Fox," which is all about Fox's racism.

Since then, our poweful message to Fox keeps spreading, and they're sounding desperate. True to form, Fox responded with a racially insensitive statement comparing our partner MoveOn to the Klan -- yes, the KKK! It's outrageous -- comparing an organization that works everyday to engage citizens in politcs to a hate group that hunted and murdered Black people in a reign of terror. It's another example of how far Fox will go, but it also shows that they can't address the real issue -- their racist attacks -- because they have no defense.

But the fight's not over. This week, we changed the conversation about Fox and we'll keep bringing the heat -- watch for a message for us in about a week for next steps. But for now, enjoy the video of Wednesday's petition delivery and the video of Colbert. Both videos are at this link:

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, Andre, Kai, and the rest of the team
July 26th, 2008

P.S. You can listen to Nas's new single "Sly Fox" on the Colbert video at the link above. If you like it and want to buy the full album, it's available here:

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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Capoeira joins Brazilian heritage list

15/07/2008 - 9h50m
*Da Redação, com informações do Jornal da Manhã e do G1

Iphan vai votar nesta terça-feira (15) pedido de registro. (Foto:

A capoeira pode se tornar patrimônio cultural brasileiro. Nesta terça-feira (15), o Conselho do Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan) vai se reunir, em Salvador, para votar o pedido de registro da capoeira como próxima manifestação brasileira candidata a patrimônio cultural.

Cerca de vinte grupos baianos de capoeira, junto com outros do Rio de Janeiro e do Recife, devem se apresentar em frente ao Palácio Rio Branco, onde acontece a reunião.

À noite, haverá uma festa no Teatro Castro Alves. Na ocasião, será inaugurada a exposição 'Na Roda da Capoeira', com pinturas, esculturas em barro, instrumentos musicais, xilogravuras e folhetos de cordel que retratam o universo da dança.

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Vem jogar mais eu, camará é uma exposição que conta a história da
capoeira baiana entre 1940 e 1980. Estará aberta a visitação de 3 de
julho a 3 de agosto no espaço da Caixa Cultural. A entrada é gratuita.
Busca atrair um público bastante diversificado, capoeiristas, mestres
de capoeira professores, estudantes, e amantes da arte da vadiação.
Escolas com agendamento prévio terão visitas monitoradas. A mostra é
fruto de uma pesquisa realizada pelo Instituto Jair Moura, o mais
completo acervo sobre capoeira do mundo.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Documentary on Mestre Russo

O Zelador (12A)
Directed by Daren Bartlett
Brazil, 2007, 83m documentary

Special screening to celebrate the UK DVD release

The film explores the life of Meste Russo who lives with his family in the intimidating Baixada Fluminense neighbourhood. At an early age Russo discovered the value of capoeira. The music, physical agility, self-defence and philosophy of this Afro-Brazilian cultural manifestation help him endure a life fraught with poverty and danger.

Date Thu 3 Jul
Venue Riverside Studios, Crisp Rd, Hammersmith, W6 9RL
Time 8.50pm
Tickets £7.50 (£6.50 concs.) for double bill

Bookings 020 8237 1111

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Friday, 20 June 2008

Curso vai formar capoeiristas-educadores

20/06/2008 - 18h14m

*Da Redação

O curso Capoeira - Educação para a Paz, começa no próximo dia 30, às 14h, com uma palestra da educadora Fátima Freire Dowbor, no Forte de Santo Antônio Além do Carmo, tem como principal objetivo formar capoeiristas-educadores que vão atuar na construção de um currículo escolar voltado para a educação das relações étnico-raciais.

O curso vai aproximar o caráter inclusivo da capoeira a vivências pedagógicas colaborativas, como a Metodologia do Círculo de Cultura, desenvolvida pelo educador Paulo Freire. O tema será abordado por sua filha, a também educadora Fátima Freire Dowbor, na aula inaugural, com a palestra Quem Educa Marca o Corpo do Outro.

O evento contará também com a apresentação do artista senegalês Doudou Coumbua Rose, que vai pedir a bênção aos mestres que ocupam o Forte de Santo Antônio Além do Carmo, reduto histórico da luta e resistência de diversos grupos de capoeira em Salvador, agora sob a gestão do Instituto do Patrimônio Artístico e Cultural (Ipac).

De início, serão capacitados 80 capoeiristas, em duas turmas de 40 alunos, que assistirão a aulas dos 30 módulos do curso.

As inscrições para o curso já estão abertas. Para participar, os interessados precisam ser indicados por outros mestres de diferentes bairros e escolas de capoeira de Salvador e região metropolitana.

As aulas serão realizadas de segunda a sexta-feira, das 14h às 18h, no Forte de Santo Antônio Além do Carmo. A previsão é que a primeira turma receba o certificado no dia 15 de agosto.