Guess which instrument I think is the heartbeart of the roda? Yep, it's the atabaque alright, that solid, dignified instrument so dear to my heart =D
For an introduction to the instrument and basic tips on playing it, check out this article written by our own senior, Pek a.k.a Cabure: http://nuscapoeira.blogspot.com/2008/08/pup-tum.html
Aaaanyway, seems to me that the atabaque is somewhat neglected at times because, of course, everyone bows to the almighty berimbau ;p No complaints in that, but the more I delve into the history and variations, the more fascination I feel for the atabaque.
For one, there is actually a debate on whether the berimbau was used first in the roda, or was it percussion instruments rather similar to the atabaque? Popular notion holds that the berimbau came in first, also bearing in mind that it is much lighter and more portable, hence easier to bring around for rodas. However, looking at the influences surrounding capoeira, in candomble actually there are 3 berimbaus being used. (By the way, just like there are 'gunga', 'medio' and 'viola' for different tone setting of the berimbau, the low tone atabaque is called 'rum', and the high tone called 'le'. The middle tone, 'rumpi', is never used in a roda.)
A video clip showing how an atabaque duet can be:
And another one to show the candomble rhythm:
Ow and the last bit of interesting information... Atabaque and berimbau toques are usually played 4:4 (the rhythm contained in a bar made of 4 beats.. If you really wanna know just ask me next practice), but there is one toque that uses 6:8 beats, which is called toque Cavalaria.. and it is used.. to warn the capoeiristas that the police are approaching!! =D
Hope that can entertain away a bit of the Monday blues! =)