“Berimbau chamou pro jogo
Pandeiro que respondeu
O atabaque ja entrou
Mestre Bimba apareceu…”
—Ê, La Lae Lae La
This instrument has a long rich history and has remained virtually unchanged through time. The pandeiro as it is found in Brazil is a variation of the tambourine which is thought to be Middle Eastern in origin but also found all across Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Across the Middle East the tambourine was used mainly in religious ceremonies and by dancers. Crusaders brought this instrument to Europe sometime in the 13th century. Tambourines were played in ancient Greece and Rome, travelling across Europe with the gypsy movement. It eventually made its way to Portugal where it was called pandereta or adufe. The portuguese then brought this instrument along with them to the new world (Brazil). The pandeiro was and is still used in many styles of Brazilian music from Samba, Chorro, Coco to Bossa Nova. The pandeiro was eventually introduced to capoeira by way of Samba. Therefore it is thought that both the berimbau and atabaque were already part of capoeira before the pandeiro was included. During the period when capoeira was outlawed the capoeiristas and samba players would practice secretly in the same area. A game of capoeira would be played when suddenly a signal would be given by the change in berimbau toque to alert the capoeiristas that the authorities were coming. Immediately the samba girls would jump in the roda and start dancing. The pandeiro would play more variations in samba de roda along with other instruments like the atabaque.
A painting depicting the pandeiro being played in Samba
Role in Capoeira
The pandeiro is probably the second most important instrument in capoeira. In traditional Capoeira Regional, Mestre Bimba always prefered a bateria with just one berimbau and two pandeiros. The pandeiro helps keep the beat and pulse of the game long with the atabaque when available. It also serves to accent certain parts of the game. For example the pandeiro may play a certain variation if a player falls, gets kicked, does a fancy floreio, or a new player buys the game.
Anatomy of the Pandeiro
The pandeiro has three essential components:
Frame:The base of the pandeiro is made with a wooden frame about 10” to 12” in diameter.
Head:The head is usually made from a thin stretched animal hide or synthetic skin. Some animal skin types known to have been used include goat, cow, sheep, and even boa constrictor.
Cymbals/Platinelas:These are small metal rings placed in the wooden frame to produce a jingling sound. Depending on the diameter of the frame, the platinelas number varies between 5 to 10 pairs.
Types of Pandeiros
There are various types of pandeiros used for different kinds of Brazilian music such as Samba, Choro, and Coco. But in capoeira the types of pandeiros are typically divided into three common sizes:
10” Pandeiro: Panderio with a 10” diameter frame
11” Pandeiro: Panderio with a 11” diameter frame
12” Pandeiro: Panderio with a 12” diameter frame
Any one of these sizes is acceptable to be used in capoeira.
Photography by Pandeirar Cadencia
How to Play
When playing the pandeiro in capoeira there are 4 main sounds to learn.
Slap: This sound is made by slapping the center of the pandeiro head.
Thumb: This sound is made by tapping the head with your thumb close to the frame.
Finger Tips: This sound is made by tapping the head with your finger tips close to the frame.
Heel: This sound is made by tapping the head with the heel of your hand (near your wrist) close to the frame.
Where to Get a Pandeiro
The best place to get a pandeiro is from a mestre who has played pandeiros for years and knows the science of making one. There are also many pandeirsta who many not even play capoeira but are masters of the instrument as it is used in many styles of Brazilian music. If you don’t live near any one of these people then the next best thing it to attend a capoeira events such as a batizado or workshop. Most of these events will have a variety of capoeiristas and usually a few mestres selling instruments. Also, there are some quality pandeiros to be found on popular online shopping sites. The important thing to keep in mind is that you would want a relatively light pandeiro as it would be easier to play and manipulate.
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