What’s a Ladainha again?
Aaah that song sung by the Mestre at the beginning or the roda no? But wait, wasn’t that a Quadra? Or was it a Louvação…
With several different types of songs, all with hard to pronounce Portuguese names, no wonder it’s confusing!
Hopefully this quick and handy guide to the 5 main categories of Capoeira Songs will help clarify things for you!
The Ladainha (Litany in English) is the song that is traditionally sung at the beginning of a capoeira roda.
The ladainha is usually sung as a solo by the Mestre (or senior capoeirista) who is leading the roda, after opening the proceedings with the “Yaaaaaaaaaay!” while the first two jogadores crouch at the foot of the berimbau before the first game.
It is common that during the ladainha, only the berimbaus play, so the Mestre doesn’t have to strain to be heard over the full bateria, but this does vary from group to group. Usually the Mestre singing the ladainha plays the rhythm “Angola” on the gunga.
The lyrics of the ladainha always have some kind of meaning. It could be directions as to how the Mestre wants the roda to be, a story with a moral, remembering great Mestres of the past, a message to one or more capoeiristas present in the roda.
It will likely be many years however before you have the level of Portuguese to understand not only the words, but also the hidden meanings and metaphors that lie beneath them!
You can watch part of an interesting documentary (in PT with English subs) on the ladainha here if you’d like to learn more.
If you practice Capoeira Regional, you will be familiar with a different way of starting the roda.
Mestre Bimba always opened his rodas with a “quadra”.
These were originally songs composed of just 4 verses, hence the name. There are now many quadras with more verses, but they are always in multiples of 4 – 8, 12 etc.
The quadra is accompanied by the charanga (1 berimbau and 2 pandeiros, the traditional Regional bateria) playing São Bento Grande de Regional.
Due to this very different rhythm, Mestre Bimba’s quadra has a very different cadence and melody to the traditional ladainha.
Perhaps the most well know quadra of Mestre Bimba is Iuna e Mandinguera:
Curiosidade: Though the ladainha is often thought of as from capoeira angola, the tradition actually predates the 20th Century, and therefore the stratification of Capoeira. Further to this, Mestre Pastinha used to use sextetos to open his rodas (compositions of six verses) as for example:Iê
Maior é Deus
pequeno sou eu
todo que eu tenho
foi Deus que me deu
na roda da capoeira
grande pequeño sou eu
The Louvação (eulogy or tribute in English) is the call and response section sung immediately after the Ladainha or the Quadra.
Mestre: Iêee Viva meu Deus…
Chorus: Iêee Viva meu Deus Camará
The Mestre sings a line, then the chorus repeat the same line, adding “camará” (comrades/friends) at the end.
Often, the lines start with “Iêee Viva meu…” which is a way of honouring someone or something (Think “Vive la France”). The literal translation would be “Live!” Perhaps the closest translation would be “Long live”, but as it’s used for God, Mestres which are no longer with us, and places, it’s not really a great translation.
The louvação follows both the ladainha and the quadra, but take note that the intonation/melody is different in each case, even though the words are the same.
Listen closely to the louvaçoes from the two videos posted above for the differences. It’s good to familiarise yourself with both, so that if you visit another group’s roda who uses the other form you’re prepared!
Chulas are short songs, characterised by a short verse of a few lines sung by the person leading by the song, followed by a chorus that is usually one short line sung by the singer, to which the chorus responds with another short line.
Often the verses are improvised, or at least chosen for a specific reason, based on current events, visitors, a situation in the roda that day.
They are often sung after the louvação, before the corridos, sometimes by one of the jogadores crouching at the foot of the berimbau waiting to play.
An example chula:
Caminhando pela rua
Uma cobra me mordeu
Meu veneno era mais forte
Foi a cobra quem morreu
Walking down the street
A snake bit me
My poison was stronger
It was the snake that died
Essa cobra me morde
Sinhô São Bento
Olha a cobra danada
Sinhô São Bento
That snake is biting me
Sir Saint Benedict
Look, the snake is damned
Sir Saint Benedict
The corridos are the most common songs that are usually sung throughout the roda.
They are usually short phrases/verses sung by the singer, to which the chorus respond in unison.
That said, there are many variations, some longer, some shorter, some always with the same chorus line, others that are always changing. Some are better suited to faster rhythms, others slower, etc.
Perhaps the best known corrido is Paranauê.
There are seemingly an infinite number of capoeira songs. At first the thought of being able to sing along to all the songs in a roda seems like mission impossible, especially if you don’t speak portuguese!
Don’t worry about it though, you’ll get there in the end. To begin with, just try and learn one new song a week. Add them to a playlist and listen to them on your way to and from training and you’ll soon pick them up.
Learning songs will also really help with your portuguese, and learning portuguese will help you with your songs – it’s a great combination!
You can find the lyrics and English translation of many popular capoeira songs right here on Papoeira.com and we plan to keep adding as we go along.
Another great place to start is Mestre Acordeon’s “Ligeiros”. In this 11 minute epic, you’ll find a Ladainha, the Louvação, followed by a great selection of some of the most popular corridos.