The Toques of Mestre Bimba
Learning the “toques” of Mestre Bimba is not an easy task – some of them are fairly complicated, and mastering them all will take time. In order to make the process a little easier for anyone out there wanting to learn them, ourselves included, we’ve created this page which contains musical and phonetic transcriptions, plus short recordings of the basic rhythms.
A big thanks to Jabu Morales for her help with the transcriptions – not only a talented Brasilian musician, but also a researcher and curator of Brazilian Folkloric Music and Culture, we couldn’t have done this without her!
Also of course to our Mestre, Boca Rica, a dedicated historian of the traditional culture and music of Brazil, who first introduced us to, and taught us, the toques of Mestre Bimba (amongst many others), and their importance within the world of capoeira.
Using this Guide
Before we get into the toques themselves, below are some tips on how to interpret the transcriptions.
We’ve just included samples of the basic rhythms. To really master the Toques de Bimba, you’ll need to learn the “repiques” or variations too. In order to do this, we recommend you invest in a copy of Mestre Bimbas album: Curso de Capoeira Regional.
Possibly one of the first recordings of Capoeira Rythms to vynil, but now available on CD or digital download… (If you can’t find a copy of the CD, it is available through various paid subscription services such as Google Play Music and Spotify).
OK, before going into detail, we’d like to emphasise the importance the cadence of each “toque”, it is this overall cadence, or feel, which drives the rhythms of the toques.
You may find that the original recordings and transcriptions of the toques below are different to how you’ve heard them played in your group, and no doubt you’ll hear slightly different versions again if you travel/train with other groups.
One has to bear in mind that (notwithstanding the album recorded by Bimba), the music, history and culture of capoeira is a largely oral one, leaving great room for variation and debate. We personally believe, as long as you keep to the general cadence or feel of the toque, there is no one “true way” to play the basic rythms or repiques.
An important detail which (generally) applies in all the toques, is that the Ding and Dong sounds are made holding the cabaça away from the body, wherease the Txi and Xi you play holding the cabaça pressed against the body to mute the note.
In some of the toques there are third notes. In these cases, we’ve shortened Dong and Ding to Do and Di, to represent that they should be played faster.
The toque “Banguela” is used in more relaxed games, it has a slower cadence and encourages a more fluid manner of play. It is also said that Bimba used to introduce the rythm when the roda got a little overheated and things needed calming down a little!
This rhythm is usually accompanied by “las palmas de Bimba” (1, 2, 3).
São Bento Grande
Perhaps the epitome of all the toquees de Bimba, this toque is for a fast and objective game. Not usually a game full of floreios or acrobatics, as the caporistas would be focusing more on attack and defense, with plenty of sweeps and takedowns. Only hands and feet can touch the floor, not the head as in most other versions of capoeira.
This is (traditionally) the rhythm with which most of Mestre Bimba’s rodas were opened, though also Banguela and Idalina can be used providing one sings (quadras) and claps (Palmas de Bimba, 1, 2, 3!) in the correct timing.
The majority of the rhythms are in 4/4 time, and São Bento Grande is no exception. Just to confuse you though, you’ll see in the recording we start the toque with the final two Txi Txis from bar 4 of the transcription!
This toque was used in the game of balões (balloons), a collaborative game involving collaborative acrobatic throws and takedowns that Mestre Bimba used in the “formaturas” of his advanced students (Cintura Desprezada). The toque is often used for the Jogo de Mestres (game between 2 mestres), and also as a sign of respect when a capoerista has passed away.
It seems that the name of the toque comes from that of a bird from the North East of Brazil, who’s song the rhythm emulates.
Unlike the majority of the other rhythms, Iuna is unusual, as many of the “Dongs” are muted against the body. This is not so easy to represent in the transcription, so please listen carefully to the recording to learn when to mute and when to let the sound ring out.
Like São Bento Grande and Banguela it is acompanied by the Palmas de Bimba 1,2,3, and cuadras are sung.
It is also said by some that tradtionally this toque used by some for the Jogo de Facão e de navalha (Machete or Razor Blade), but this apparently was never part of the official Capoeira Regional.
This rhythm was used to warn of the arrival of the police. As capoeira was illegal, every roda had people in charge of controlling access. If the police came in sight of the roda, the lookouts would play Cavalaria, and the capoeristas would have time to flee the scene in order to avoid arrest.
This rhythm was not an original creation of Mestre Bimba, it already existed. He did however embelish it with variations.
When playing the two triplets, start with the calabaza on the belly, and gradually lift it away to around the sound to swell.
Not to be confused with the epynomous toque from capoeira Angola (which confusingly, is exactly the same as the following toque de Bimba, Hino). The toque does not have a specific game or purpose, however listening to it, you can tell it is a more moderated pace in comparison to São Bento Grande or Iuna, so one would expect a slower game.
In the words of Mestre Nenel, “The inention of Mestre Bimba for this toque was not very clear”.
Hino da Capoeira Regional
O Hino da Capoeira Regional (The Hymn of Capoeira Regional) was used to close the rodas of Capoeira Regional. During the toque, the capoeiristas stayed in silence in the roda.
As mentioned previously, this same toque exists in Capoeira Angola, but under the name Santa Maria.
Confused? Well, if you weren’t already, this same toque also has a third name and use: Apanha Laranja no Chão Tico Tico! Grab the orange from the floor little bird. In this game, a handkerchief with money wrapped inside is placed in the centre of the roda, which the capoeristas have to try and grab with their teeth. It’s a game of strategy, very close the ground, and always respecting the other player, trying to avoid physical contact while blocking their path to the prize.
A rhythm of celebration used to greet visiting Mestres or other special guests that arrived to the roda.
With this toque, we encountered a few dificulties in trying to decide exactly how to present the rythm and transcription.
Although we have the original recordings to listen to, you will find if you locate a copy of the album, that each track is full of “repiques” or variations all the way through. There is therefore some confusion/debate, particularly with this toque which is longer and more complex, as to which parts are the base rhythm, and which are variations.
The symbol at the start of the transcription is an upbeat – a not uncommon feature of many toques of capoeira is that it is usual to start playing the rhythm with the last quaternote of the final bar (usually, as in the case here, a Txi for the berimbau).