Jun 20

Singing Tips for the Roda

Responding to the Chorus

If you don't know the song, lean over and ask your neighbor what the chorus line is. If you don't want to do this (or if they don't know either), then listen, read lips, and try to imitate. Listen especially for the vowels, and just do the best you can! It's ok if it's not perfect. After the roda, ask someone to teach you the lines to the choruses.

For non-Portuguese speakers, it often helps to see the lyrics written out, so ask someone who knows the songs to write down the chorus parts for you.

Pay close attention when the song changes and you have to sing a different line.

If you already know the song, sing with energy and enthusiasm!

If you have a good musical sense, add harmony to the chorus part.

Listen to your capoeira CDs a lot, and sing along.

Along with the lyrics, learn the meaning of the songs you are singing. The leader often chooses songs to communicate a message to the roda or to comment on the game.

Leading Singing

Learn Portuguese! It makes leading a thousand times easier when you know what the words are saying, and also gives you the ability to improvise verses, which is really sweet.

Practice with simple songs: learn the pronunciation, then sing while looking at the words until you have them memorized.

Pay attention to the cadence and timing of the words with the melody in order to avoid, for example, singing the first couple words too slowly and then having to rush to finish the line before the chorus response.

Practice with either yourself or someone else playing instruments, so that you get a sense of where the song works within the toque. If you start the song at the wrong time in the rhythm, it'll sound a little "off." This can take a few tries to hear it and do it correctly.

Practice slowly and be patient!!! For me, learning how to play the berimbau and lead at the same time was like learning to ginga all over again – painfully awkward and slow. I spent many hours alone in my room playing the angola toque at a snail's pace and trying to get the hang of the solo part, and I messed up many, many times.

If you're uncomfortable leading a big group, practice with a small group of people. It can also help to sing the lead together with another person who knows it well.

RELAX!!! You'll get much better sound and volume if you're relaxed than if you're tense from nervousness.

Sing loud enough to be heard over the bateria.

For each song, have one line that you know like the back of your hand, which you can sing without thinking about it. For example, in "Tim tim tim lá vai viola," my default solo line is "Viola, viola, lá vai viola." If I forget the other lines, or if I'm thinking about improvising a few verses, I just resort to my default line a couple times to collect my thoughts, and then move on.

Make sure to practice smooth transitions between songs.

Many songs enable you to start with a line that contains the chorus or that "alerts" the roda about the upcoming song. For example: "Oi bem-ti-vi jogou gameleira no chão, oi bem-ti-vi jogou..." (Gameleira no chão)

Don't just butt in and steal the song lead from someone else; it's rude. Ask permission by catching the person's eye and gesturing, or asking ("Posso cantar?"), or wait until they finish. Also, the person leading singing should be in the bateria.

Try to sing songs that are appropriate to the roda and to the game being played, and remember the meaning and significance of what you're singing.

If the music appears to be dying, or if the people in the roda appear not to know the song you're leading, change it; sing something familiar that everyone can get into in order to restore the roda's energy.

Ladainha & Louvação

Everyone - even capoeiristas who are not angoleiros - should know at least a few ladainhas, in case you are invited to sing one. Being asked to sing the ladainha is an honor, and you want to be prepared!

Begin with a nice, long, strong IÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ!

Understand the meaning of what you're singing. Some ladainhas are "friendly" whereas others challenge or even insult the other player! Make sure to sing something that's appropriate to the moment, with a message that you want to convey. You'll have everyone's attention while you're singing.

Make sure the louvação makes sense. You can mix and match lines in the chula, but it shouldn't be totally random. Don't do this:

Iê, viva meu Deus - (Long live my God)
Iê, faca de ponta - (A pointed knife)
Iê, ele é mandingueiro - (He is a clever guy)
Iê, cocorocô - (Cock-a-doodle-doo)

See how it doesn't flow? Louvação verses are often sort of paired up; certain ones go with certain others. For example:

Iê, viva meu Deus - (Long live my God)
Iê, viva meu mestre - (Long live my mestre)
Iê, ele é mandingueiro - (He is a clever guy)
Iê, sabe jogar - (He knows how to play)
Iê, faca de ponta - (A pointed knife)
Iê, sabe furar - (Knows how to pierce)
Iê, vamos embora - (Let's go)
Iê, chegou a hora - (It's time)
Iê, galo cantou - (The rooster has crowed)
Iê, cocorocô - (Cock-a-doodle-doo)