“Tem dendê na capoeira
Na defesa e no ataque
Tem dendê no berimbau
E tem dendê na atabaque…”
Dendê ô Dendê

Capoeira is the only major martial art known to have such a distinct incorporation of music. A good capoeirista should not only have a strong game in the roda, but also be solid on the instruments. When a player finishes a strong game and is completely out of breath, he or she can walk around and pick up one of the instruments to play. In doing this, energy is restored and the axé that was generated during the game is now directly transferred to the instrument and thus continues to benefit the roda. Some Capoeira schools don’t start teaching instruments to students until after 6 months to a year of training. Music is an integral part of capoeira and it should be picked up when it calls out as a pure desire to contribute axé and enhance awareness of the philosophical side of the art. Understanding the instruments and music really transforms a players game as he becomes more in tune with capoeira culture.

There are several main instruments used in capoeira:

    • Berimbau: A single stringed bow instrument with a gourd attached as a resonator. It is played with a rock or coin and a small stick. This is seen as the most important instrument in the roda as it dictates the pace and style of the game. Learn more…
    • Pandeiro: This is the brazilian tambourine with a skin (either synthetic or animal hide) on one side. This is probably the second most important instrument in the roda and a good one for a new student to begin learning. Learn more…
    • Atabaque: This is an african style drum similar to the congas used in traditional salsa music. Though it is used in capoeira it can also bee seen in afro brazilian religious rituals like candomble and macumba. Learn more…
    • Agogô: This is African instrument made of two iron bells and is played with either a metal or wooden stick. Similar to the Atabaque it can also be found in in afro brazilian religious ceremonies. Learn more…
    • Reco-Reco: The reco-reco is made of a section of bamboo about a foot and a half long with grooves or notches carved on one side. IT is played with a thin wooden stick by rubbing it on the grooves. It is the most recent instrument added to capoeira. Learn more…

Capoeira Instruments displayed in Brazil during Carnivale. Photography from
Capoeira Instruments displayed in Brazil during Carnivale. Photography from

ALMEIDA, Bira. Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, ISBN: 9780938190295
CAPOEIRA, Nestor. The Little Capoeira Book, ISBN: 9781556434402; Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game, ISBN: 9781556434044

1 Comment
  1. Aryastark 5 years ago

    My best friend has done capoeira for a long time. He’s amazing, but if I ever tried, I think I’d only be able to play the bells. We have a capoeira group that meets at Holt Renfrew Centre and I love to go watch them. I even got a few capoeira movies on Netflix! Keep on rocking!

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