Friday, November 7, 2008

My Favourite Instrument

Hello, in line with Cabure's post, I would like to share my favourite instrument too!

My favourite instrument is the berimbau viola. Traditionally, there are three berimbaus (gunga, médio, and viola). And--if you want to split hairs--there is also the berra-boi (bigger than the gunga) and the violinha (smaller than the viola).

So generally the viola is smallest berimbau. It is true that size matters, but in the capoeira world it's backwards. Unlike the other two, the viola makes a nice metallic twang when you pluck it, like hitting a small puppy. Here is an interesting video on plucking twangers.

Yes, I remember watching Rainbow when I was young too. Unfortunately that was a dud episode which wasn't aired, or we would have been learning about capoeira a lot sooner.

Anyway, the viola is only fun to play in accompaniment to other berimbaus (which usually means an angola roda unfortunately). This is because of the freedom it has to dance in and out of the toque (rhythm).

Due to their musical roles, I imagine that if the instruments were characters in a play, the gunga would be an old man: wise, toothless and feeble. The médio would be middle-aged: greying at the temples, stuck in tradition, yet trying to change it in his own way. The viola would be a young punk: irreverently thumbing his nose--if noses had thumbs--at tradition and rules. The atabaque would be the strong silent type, stout and dependable. The pandeiros would be motherly women, perhaps sisters, but with a jealous streak. The agogô would be a crying attention-craving child. The reco-reco is the first born child that's pissed that everyone now only dotes on the Agogô.

And the funny thing is, a lot of times the people who end up playing these instruments have suitable personalities!

So the gunga starts with a base toque. There are three notes (plus some sound effects) a berimbau can make: a 'dom' (coin away from the wire), a 'ting' (coin pressed hard into the wire), and a buzz, a 'tch' (coin barely kissing the wire). The angola toque, for example, would go like this: tch-tch dom tiiiinng, tch-tch dom tiiiinng. The médio plays a contra-toque (counter rhythm), playing a 'dom' for every 'ting' the gunga plays and vice-versa. The viola says, to hell with all that, I'm getting out there, and I'm going to be sex-AY! (yes, you can see why I like it, no?) 'Look at me!', it screams. 'I'm hotter than Paris!' talking a lot without really saying anything. Occasionally, it goes back into the rhythm, but only because it feels like it, and then its out and about, tossing out the musical equivalent of the ginga and cavorting musical floreios for the crowd.

Yes, the viola is the bateria's cam-whore.

Stay Sexy,

PS: If you are wondering why, though you're trained in Western music, you have no idea what I'm talking about, it is because for me a 'legolas beat' (refer to Cabure's post) is when Orlando Bloom shoots down yet another orc.

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