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May 3, 2013 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Many of you are perhaps familiar with the berimbau, a musical bow with a calabash resonator, best known as an instrument for accompanying the Brazilian dance/martial art known as capoeira. But the roots of the instrument lie, as you might guess, in Africa. Still, it's not often we get a chance to hear the original African version of the instrument being played. This video, though, in which one Chris Haambwiila of Zambia conjures up an intricate, bewitching groove, is one that will be of interest to those who enjoy elemental and unadulterated human rhythmic expression. And the two little boys getting down to the sound will win your heart, for sure.
posted by flapjax at midnite (22 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew this was one of your posts before I even finished the first line :-)

Well played, sir. Love this stuff.
posted by mykescipark at 10:07 AM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The audio of the linked clip appears on a collection of music from Zambia called Zambia Roadside 2. You can hear a cool balafon piece from the CD there, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:19 AM on May 3, 2013


I'm sure there's been a metafilter post about Hugh Tracey's recordings collected in Southern Africa in the '50's, but I haven't the search skills to find it. Anyhow there's a CD, Kalimba & Kalumbu Songs, Northern Rhodesia 1952 & 1957. I'm almost sure it's been mentioned on the blue before.
posted by glasseyes at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2013


I'm sure there's been a metafilter post about Hugh Tracey's recordings

I made a Hugh Tracey post last year.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:28 AM on May 3, 2013


Mesmerizing and authentic. Yet another winner from flapjax.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:35 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


For this much thanks; it's wonderful stuff. Here is another beautiful musical bow + voice performance, which I found via your earlier Hugh Tracey post.
posted by pont at 10:44 AM on May 3, 2013


Ah, it was you! Thank you! I've had that CD for a while, it was nice to see something about it on here.
posted by glasseyes at 11:08 AM on May 3, 2013


amazing. Thank you!
posted by grubby at 11:26 AM on May 3, 2013


Remove the vocals, put drums behind it, and you have a Tool song.
posted by ga$money at 12:06 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was taking my berimbau home with me on the train, and an African fellow came up to me, very excited to see it, but then disappointed when I said it was Brazilian. I wish I had known the specifics; I wouldn't have felt so dumb!
posted by mkb at 1:19 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lovely music! San people used to be called 'Bushmen' right?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:36 PM on May 3, 2013


I heard a guy play a belembaotuyan* when I lived on Guam. It was at a folk-music festival at a beach bar near Talofofo (can't remember the name - it's been a while) and was made up almost entirely of Japanese bluegrass bands. Right in the middle of it this fleshy old Chamoru guy waddles up to the stage carrying this strange instrument. He sat down while a woman announced him as a 'special guest', then he began to play. He played his instrument with the gourd on his belly, but with the top of the long part of the stick resting on the ground, upside-down to how it's played in Brazil. The old man 'fretted' the wire with a ring he was wearing while he hit it with a thin stick, and in that way was able to wring several notes out of the thing, in addition to 'buzzed' notes and percussive flourishes. He sang a few songs entirely in Chamoru, softly singing and tapping on the instrument while everyone in the entire place fell completely silent. When he was done, the old man got up, nodded, and walked right out the front door. People cheered and clapped for him, but he didn't seem to take notice.

Years later I got pretty into capoeira and became proficient with a few toques on the berimbau, but every time I picked it up I thought of that old guy, and what a rare and fortunate thing it was to have gotten to see him play those tunes. I wish I had recorded him.

*Pronounced 'be-lim-bau-tsut-san' as I recall - the Chamoru version of the berimbau.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:00 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Having discovered the existence of the mouthbow just yesterday, this is taking it to the next level! Awesome!
posted by yoHighness at 4:30 PM on May 3, 2013


Sorry, wiki page was for bows in general, here's a video of the actual mouthbow.
posted by yoHighness at 4:34 PM on May 3, 2013


One of my proud achievements as a capoeirista is procuring a quality gunga for a Ghanaian workmate. Then I had to show him how to play it.

Also, this is amazing.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:17 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


He played his instrument with the gourd on his belly, but with the top of the long part of the stick resting on the ground, upside-down to how it's played in Brazil.

I can totally relate to that. because the way the capoeira-style Brazilian berimbau is held (god, that's rough on the fingers!) is rather difficult. The long bow, when held way down at one end like that, is actually rather top heavy and, I find, unwieldy in the extreme.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:33 PM on May 3, 2013


Before it became part of the capoeira bateria, the berimbau was mostly the instrument of street vendors, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Brazilian technique is designed to facilitate walking around.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:36 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before it became part of the capoeira bateria, the berimbau was mostly the instrument of street vendors

Very interesting, joe's_spleen. Do you have any cites for the street vendor use?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:42 PM on May 3, 2013


I only have one capoeira history book to hand, but see pp 129-133, The Hidden History of Capoeira, Maya Talmon-Chvaicer, who cites numerous primary sources. But I've read this in several English language histories of the game, and I've been told this by capoeira angola mestres (specifically, M Jogo de Dentro, M Plinio, M Roxinho). In the 19th century capoeira was accompanied by the atabaque drum, but as the police cracked down on capoeira rodas in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the lighter and more portable berimbau became the instrument of choice. The book I just mentioned doesn't talk about street vendors but others I've read do and the mestres said so too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:01 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Excellent post!
posted by Wolof at 3:31 AM on May 4, 2013


To support I_am_joe´s_spleen´s mention, ... I just got back from a lecture on this a few minutes ago and according to those sources, which I didnt write down, the birembau was used in Brazil to lure people into stores to buy things (which i´m sure is about the same thing as the street vendor part) and was introduced later on to capoeira, which originally did not require music and later had various instruments (in some images youll see guitars for instance), and the instruments used today were pretty much set in the early-mid 1900s with the first academies...

i love the post! capoeiristas often talk about the roots of the art form including the music, its cool to see other versions, especially how this one incorporates more musical notes
posted by nzydarkxj at 10:15 PM on May 4, 2013


Yup. The Angola bateria you see today is either M Pastinha's or a variant thereof, but he experimented a lot first. At the time he formed CECA there was no standardisation. He tried castanets at one point... how different the bateria would sound if that had taken off! ISTR reading that the standard Angola set of berimbau toques is also down to him (ie gunga/Angola, medio/são bento pequeno, viola/são bento grande). Meanwhile M Bimba stripped the bateria right down, but introduced rhythms from guitar (well viola, strictly speaking), eg Iuna started out as a toque for viola caipira.

We don't realise how much of what is "traditional" is the decision of a few people quite recently.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:56 AM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


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