Musings on the musical aspects of capoeira - Part 3

Maculelê - Capoeira Besouro - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 2009

Maculelê - Capoeira Besouro - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 2009

There are so many possible topics to write about relating to capoeira and music. It was difficult to choose one for today - but I was looking at old videos from past performances, and I found something that inspired today's post - the dance form of maculelê.

What is maculelê?

This is a dance form where dancers use sticks to accompany the percussion and voices that provide the music. It is a folkloric dance with a similar origin story to capoeira. It's also performed in a roda (circle). To get an idea, here's a clip from a demo we did in 2016:

As you can see and hear, there's a strong beat that the sticks accompany. The songs are folkloric and there are many versions of thesong with this same melody. The dance is a combination of choreography and freestyle - often in shows and demos, groups will choreograph one portion and freestyle another portion, as in the example clip above. Usually, the freestyle portion is between two people while a ring forms around them - just like in capoeira. There's a vocabulary of movements, and they're combined in random order, while maintaining hitting each others' sticks on the 1st beat of the phrase (which has 4 beats).

Here's a music clip so you can hear how it goes:

I am definitely not an authority on maculelê, but from what have read and heard, it has many different origin myths, just like capoeira. Interestingly, it emerged separately from capoeira during the same historical period, but had many similar elements. Much of the time slaves spent was in sugarcane plantations, and the sticks you see here are also symbols of that origin. The interaction between dancers with the sticks is mock-fighting, and sometimes, swords/machetes are used instead. They say that machetes were used originally, but were exchanged for sticks instead for safety reasons. In some professional shows, they still use machetes or 'prop' swords for dramatic effect. Another element of traditional costume includes grass skirts (as seen in the photo at the top of the page).

Over the last several decades, maculelê is increasingly performed together with capoeira - in fact, I've never heard of a group that only performs maculelê (though they could exist in Brazil). Most capoeira groups will include maculelê in their training and performances.

So that's all for now. I'm looking forward to tonight's capoeira session at Hyper Active Monkey Fitness at 8pm and all Mondays until Dec 18, 2017. Hope to see you there!

Let's get moving!
-Megha Makam

GMB Fitness - Focused Flexibility