Jun 20

Waldeloir Rego’s “Toques of Capoeira” – 1968

The common toques (rhythms) are Angola, São Bento Grande, São Bento Pequeno, Cavalaria, Iuna, and Benguela. The other toques are just variations of these common ones. According to elderly capoeiristas, in the old days the toque in capoeira called Gegê was the toque of the Gegê peoples. It was a liturgical toque especially for the god Oxumarê (the Rainbow) and in capoeira it was played on the atabaque, according to Ruguendas' illustration. Regarding the Ijexá toque, in the capoeira of Mestre Gato (José Gabriel Goes), the name is just a label, because the toque itself is a variation of the known toques. However, with Mestre Caiçara (Antônio da Conceição Moraes), when giving an exhibition for tourists, it's the liturgical toque of the Ijexá peoples, played for certain gods, and Caiçara plays it on the berimbau and applies it in capoeira. The combinations have nothing to do with it except the names.

The toque called Aviso, used by the capoeirista Canjiquinha (Washington Bruno da Silva), according to his Mestre Aberrê, used to be utilized by a berimbau player who would stay as a lookout, watching for the presence of the slave master, capitão do mato, or the police. As soon as the lookout noticed the presence of one of these, he would warn the capoeiristas through this toque. Today, there is a toque common to all the capoeiristas called Cavalaria, which is used to announce the presence of the mounted police force, whose greatest period of activity in Bahia was during the time of the police officer called Pedrito (Pedro de Azevedo Gordilho), who persecuted practitioners of capoeira and candomblé. Pedrito became immortalized in folklore and popular imagination, in songs such as:

Play the pandeiro / Shake the caxixi / Walk fast / Because Pedrito’s coming.

The capoeirista Canjiquinha has a toque called Muzenza, which is nothing more than the toque of Jogo de Dentro. In Bahia, muzenza is the name given to an initiate of the Angola nation candomblé. When the person appears in public to give the name of his orixá (god), they sing a song to the muzenza rhythm, and the orixá makes the person dance with the body lightly bent over. Based on this choreography, the popular cleverness made a caricature of the dance, increasing the curvature of the body until one was nearly on all fours. This led to the common joking between two men, when one asks the other for a favor, and the one who doesn't want to give the favor replies, "only dancing muzenza," that is, only if you bend over to be sexually possessed. When I asked Canjiquinha why he gave the name of Muzenza to the toque Jogo de Dentro, he replied that it was just as a joke.

Bigodinho (Fransisco de Assis) includes, among his toques, one called Cinco Salomão, which is performed when there is a crime among capoeiristas, so that the criminal can escape. Cinco Salomão is the corruption of Signo Salomão, which is a five-pointed star, also known as Solomon's Star. This symbol came from Biblical texts and has been used by the Masons, by spiritists, by capoeiristas, and for many other things that popular imagination can invent.

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