By N. Scott
Robinson and Richard P. Graham
Brazilian berimbau de barriga, or simply berimbau,
is a gourd-resonated, braced musical
bow of African origin. The instrument consists of a 4'5'
(1.2 m1.5 m) branch of biriba, bamboo, oak
or other wood bent into an arc. The bow is strung with a
single metal string, usually recycled from an industrial
to the convex back of the bow with a small loop of string
is a gourd resonator, although coconut, calabash or a tin
can is occasionally substituted for a gourd. The string
loop also serves as a bridge, dividing the metal string
into two sections. The little finger of the musicians
left hand (assuming a right-handed player) passes underneath
the string loop to hold the berimbau.
is struck with a thin stick called a vaquita or
vareta, which is held in the players right
hand along with a small basket rattle called caxixi.
A small coin (dobrão) or stone (pedra)
held between the musicians left thumb and index finger
is pressed to the string, resulting in a pitch change of
about a minor or major second above the berimbaus
originated in an early nineteenth-century Brazilian slave
culture. Several historical notices and depictions from
this period demonstrate the continued presence of a variety
of central African musical bows (Koster 1816, 122; Graham
1824, 199; Walsh 1830, 175-176; Debret 1834, 39; Wetherell
1860, 106-107). Popular among African-Brazilian vendors
and street musicians, these musical bows were known by African
names such as urucungu, madimba lungungo,
mbulumbumba, and hungu (Shaffer 1976,
14; Kubik 1979, 30). As a result of pan-African technology-sharing,
organological traits of these various musical bows were
fused to create a single African-Brazilian instrument (Graham
in the late nineteenth century, this new musical bow received
a Lusophone name—berimbau de barriga, or
"jaw harp of the stomach"and entered a new
cultural context, the African-Brazilian martial art form
known as capoeira (Kubik 1979, 30-33). Beginning
at least as early as the eighteenth century, capoeira
was fought to the music of an African-derived hand drum
or to simple handclapping. Capoeira is now fought
to the toques (rhythms) of the berimbau,
which accompany the songs known in Brazil as cantigas
ensemble employed in contemporary capoeira features
one to three berimbaus, an atabaque (conical
hand drum), a pandeiro (tambourine) and an agogô
(double bell). Where multiple berimbaus are employed
in an ensemble, they are often tuned to separate pitches.
In Salvador de Bahia, the cultural epicenter of capoeira,
different names are used for berimbaus of various
sizes, including viola (small), medio
(medium) and gunga (large) (Lewis 1992, 137). From
the 1940s, a number of capoeira schools in Bahia
began to paint their berimbaus with colorful stripes
and other decorations, reflecting their pride in their individual
academias (traditional capoeira schools)
(Shaffer 1976, 26).
Berimbau in Popular Music
its close association with capoeira, the berimbau
has long been used in a variety of Brazilian folk and popular
music forms, such as samba de roda, carimbo,
bossa nova, afro-samba and tropicalismo.
Art music composers such as Mario Tavares (Gan Guzama),
Luiz Augusto Rescala (Musica para Berimbau e Fita Magnetica)
and Gaudencio Thiago de Mello (Chants for the Chief)
have also written music for the instrument.
experienced a creative renaissance in 1960s Brazilian popular
music, followed by its spread to areas outside Brazil and
its use in 1970s international jazz. Although the international
diffusion of capoeira was a phenomenon that contributed
to the spread of the berimbau, this occurred only
after the instrument had already spread through popular
musics. As a result of Brazilian popular musical movements
in the 1960s, the berimbau began to be heard internationally
independently of capoeira. Baden Powell and others
brought the berimbau to the attention of musicians
outside Brazil in afro-samba songs that mimicked
the sound and rhythm of the berimbau on the guitar.
In 1962, Wilson das Neves of the samba-jazz group Os Ipanemas
used the berimbau extensively in a most creative
manner on their self-titled debut recording. Percussionist
Dom um Romão used the instrument on the track "Birimbau
(Capoeira)" in a samba-jazz big band on his debut recording
Dom Um in 1964. In 1965, Astrud Gilberto recorded
a jazz-bossa nova version of Powells "Berimbau"
that featured Dom um Romão on berimbau on
the recording Look
to the Rainbow. Gilberto Gil
recorded an important tropicalismo album in 1968
(titled Gilberto Gil), which featured the berimbau
with electric guitars on the song "Domingo no Parque."
Also in 1968, percussionist Naná
Vasconcelos was featured on Brazilian TV playing berimbau
with the group Trio
Nordeste. An unusual recording by
the vocalist Joyce of the Heitor Villa Lobos piece "Bachiana
Nº 5" for the 1970 television film Irmãos
Coragem (released on a soundtrack LP of the same name)
featured non-traditional berimbau. By 1970, the
berimbau had entered a variety of popular musics
in both Brazil and the United States.
das Neves recording with berimbau in 1962 on the
LP Os Ipanemas.
expatriate Brazilian percussionists began the process of
reinterpreting the berimbau, using it outside of
capoeira in 1970s jazz, and this resulted in innovative
technical and organological developments. Airto Moreira,
Dom um Romão, Guilherme Franco and Naná Vasconcelos
[Juvenal de Hollanda Vasconcelos] had explored the possibilities
of using the berimbau in jazz, and they were followed
by Paulinho da Costa and Djalma Corrêa (and Papete
[José de Ribamar Vianna] and Chocolate Do Mercado
Modelo in Brazilian pop). Airto Moreira, who left Brazil
in 1968, played the berimbau on recordings by Miles
Davis in 1969, his solo recording in 1970, and played with
the group Weather Report in 1971. Dom um Romão replaced
Moreira in Weather Report and continued to use the berimbau
during a Japanese tour in 1972. Subsequently, Romão
developed an electric berimbau, which greatly increased
the volume of the instrument and allowed for subtle changes
in its timbre through the use of signal processors. Guilherme
Franco had been using the berimbau in an experimental
percussion trio in Brazil in 1972. After moving to New York,
he played the berimbau on jazz recordings by Archie
Shepp and McCoy Tyner and performed with The International
Percussion Quartet. After performing on berimbau
on Brazilian TV in 1968 with Trio Nordeste, Naná
Vasconcelos first recorded on the berimbau with
Milton Nascimento (for the film soundtrack Tostão,
a fera de ouro) and then with Luíz Eça
and Sagrada Família both in 1970, subsequently playing
the berimbau with Argentine Gato Barbieri in 1971,
and made three successive solo recordings between 1971-1973
in Argentina, France, and Brazil featuring extended improvisatory
solo pieces. Subsequently, non-Brazilian percussionists
extended the process of reinterpretation, playing the berimbau
in jazz. Among them were Luis Agudo and Onias Carmadelli
[also spelled as Camardelli] both from Argentina, Okay Temiz
from Turkey, African-American Bill Summers, American jazz
drummer Shelly Manne, Ray Armando from Puerto Rico, Curt
Cress from Germany, Alan Lee from Australia, and Marta Contreras
from France, among others.
Vasconcelos and Trio Nordeste, Brazil TV, 1968
Vasconcelos & Gato Barbieri, 1971
use of the berimbau in jazz provided a nontraditional
context for contact, in which percussionists with little
or no experience with capoeira could freely exchange
ideas about berimbau techniques. Luis Agudo moved
to France in 1970, where he built his own berimbau
with a double caxixi and experimented with African,
Brazilian and Argentinean rhythms. While touring Europe,
Agudo met Okay Temiz in Sweden in 1974 and instructed him
in how to build a berimbau. By 1975, Temiz had
developed a completely new technical approach to the berimbau,
involving numerous effects pedals, microphones and a free-hand
grip similar to that used for the violin, where the instrument
is held between the chin and the shoulder, so that both
hands were free for playing. A similar cultural exchange
occurred through contact between Naná Vasconcelos
and percussionists in Italy and Japan. In the 1990s, Vasconcelos
performed a series of solo concerts and held workshops in
Japan and Italy. As a result of personal contact with Vasconcelos,
percussionists Seichi Yamamura of Japan [sometimes spelled
as Seiti Yamamura] and Peppe Consolmagno [Giuseppe Consolmagno]
of Italy began to play the berimbau in a style
heretofore peculiar to Vasconcelos, effectively contributing
to a kind of berimbau performance lineage.
- The International Percussion Quartet, c. 1970s
the 1990s, a number of organological developments and new
techniques were evident in the way that the berimbau
was played in popular musics. Tuning became an issue when
the berimbau was played in new musical contexts
where pitch was a consideration. Some musicians, such as
Vasconcelos and Temiz, actually tied the gourd resonator
to the wooden bow in a new manner, so that it was fixed
in place, keeping the pitch accurate. Brazilian Dinho Nascimento
built a large bass berimbau, called berimbum,
which used the string and tuning hardware of an acoustic
bass (American instrument makers Gino
Zenobia and Matt
Collins and German maker Anklang
Musikwelt continue to produce berimbau with
built in tuning hardware).
with berimbum, 2000
organological development consisted of doubling the number
of strings, which required new performance techniques. Double-string
berimbaus were used by Vasconcelos, Temiz and Franco
(who also developed a double-berimbauliterally
two instruments joined as one). Romão, Temiz and
Franco developed electric berimbaus. Temiz also
developed an electric double-string berimbau that
featured the addition of separate microphones and signal
processors for the string, gourd and caxixi. His
technique involved using as many as nine signal processors
simultaneously in conjunction with a free-hand grip, which
allowed the left hand to slide the coin farther up and down
the string, producing many more than the traditional two
pitches. By amplifying each part of the berimbau,
Temiz could exploit other possibilities, such as tapping
on the gourd with the coin, fingers and stick, successfully
producing traditional Turkish rhythms.
Okay Temiz - free-hand
grip & electric berimbau, 1983
expanded many technical aspects of the berimbau.
Such technical developments included plucking the string
with the fingers, striking the wood of the bow with the
stone, muting the string, scraping and striking the gourd
and other parts of the instrument with the stick, increasing
the number of pitches from two to three with a special angled
stone stroke, and playing inside the bow with the stick
by alternating between the wood and string, thereby achieving
many kinds of harmonics and percussive effects. He also
redefined the role of the caxixi. Keeping one rhythm
with the caxixi as an ostinato, the fingers of
the same hand played different accents on the string with
the stick. Similar techniques, and others, appear in Luiz
Almeida da Anunciaçãos berimbau
method book of 1990. Argentine Luis Agudo and Brazilian
Dom um Romão both employed an unusual technique for
string bending by bracing the gourd against the body while
pulling back on the bow. In the 1990s, Dinho Nascimento
developed a blues-like slide-berimbau technique,
which involved holding the bow against the body in a free-hand
fashion so that a glass slide could be used to bend the
tones of the string. In the 1990s, Italian Rosario Jermano
developed another slide-berimbau technique that
called for a new left-hand grip and the use of a metal guitar
slide in place of the stone or coin. Through both a methods
book and teaching, Jermanos technique spread to other
musicians in Italy, including percussionist Paolo Sanna.
the slide-berimbau, other Brazilian musical bows
and monochords achieve a similar effect despite not being
a berimbau played with an innovative technique.
Airto Moreira experimented with a different musical bow
called berimbau de bacia on Flora Purim's 1974
recording 500 Miles High: Flora Purim at Montreux.
His incorrectly credited berimbau solo on the track
"Cravo e Canela" is in fact a berimbau de
bacia. This instrument is played horizontally by placing
a gourd-resonated musical bow on top of a bucket as an additional
resonator. The player's foot braces the wood of the bow
over the bucket with the string facing upwards. The string
is struck with a stick while the stone slides across the
string to achieve a much more melodic effect than the traditional
berimbau is capable of. Moreira also used this instrument
in duet with a didjeridu on the 2003 CD Life
After That. Antúlio Madureira has utilized the
marimbau de cabraça, a type of archaic Brazilian
glissed monochord, on several neo-traditional and popular
music recordings (refer to the Caetano Velôso track
"Rapte-me Camaleoa" on the Kelly Benevides 2001
CD Tráfego Local for an example of the marimbau
de cabraça in a popular music setting). Also
played horizontally, the marimbau (1 or 2 string
versions, also as marimbal) is not a musical bow
but is played with a stick and a slider achieving a melodic
effect that sounds similar to the berimbau de bacia
(as does the unrelated blues monochord from the southern
USA known as diddley bow or diddy bow). The innovative slide-berimbau
techniques employed on the traditional berimbau
are usually played in a vertical position.
bow, monochord from USA
monochord from Brazil
Jermano's slide-berimbau grip, 1999
Jermano's slide-berimbau grip
inside and outside of Brazil, the berimbau is still
being used in new ways in popular musics. Brazilian artists
who have recently used the berimbau in heavy metal,
rap, electronica, and rock include Sepultura, Soulfly, Cyro
Baptista, General Frank, Gilberto Gil (with Gustavo di Dalva
on electric berimbau), and Mônica Feijó,
among others. Artists outside of Brazil that have also recently
used the berimbau in new genres include Tim Hurley
(USA, in the punk rock band Red Red Meat), Tim Aquilina
(USA, in the folk trio The Hitmen), Ramiro Musotto (Argentine
who plays tuned berimbau with club music electronica),
Santiago Vazquez (Argentine improvising percussionist),
Alex Pertout (Australia, orchestral and jazz), Mataro Misawa
(Japan, jazz), Joca Perpignan (Israel, in the folk group
Tucan Trio), François Malet (France, jazz), Nuno
Rebelo (Portugal, experimental film/dance/theater), Greg
Beyer (USA, composer of a multi-berimbau minimalist
piece in 2001 called Bahian Counterpoint (Homage à
Steve Reich) as well as commissioning pieces
for elaborately tuned berimbau in duo and sextet),
Douglas Geers (USA, composer of Exit to City for
berimbau and computer in 2003), Taufiq Qureshi
(India, fusion), Frank Colon (USA, jazz), Rich Goodhart
(USA, progressive world-rock), Richard P. Graham (USA, world
music), and N. Scott Robinson (USA, world music). The berimbau
has been used in new age and music therapy genres with recordings
by anthropologist Michael Harner of The Foundation for Shamanic
Studies, among others. The berimbau was also featured
in several films including Anselmo
Duarte's O Pagador de Promessas in 1962 and
the 1993 martial
arts/action film Only the Strong. In several television
commercials during the early 2000s, the automobile company
Mazda even used the capoeira song "Zum Zum
Zum" but changed it to "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom"
and included berimbau accompaniment in the popular
music soundtrack for its advertising campaigns.
Max Cavalera of the
heavy metal groups Sepultura & Soulfly
berimbau has become somewhat emblematic of Brazilian
popular culture, its image appearing frequently in murals,
sculpture, jewelry, tattoos and the electronic media. The
diffusion of the berimbau into popular musics outside
of capoeira and beyond Brazil has led to its increased
sophistication and technical diversity as a musical instrument.
Because of the various styles of music in which the berimbau
was increasingly used, new techniques were developed to
better meet the challenges of berimbau performance
outside of capoeira. These new attributes of contemporary
berimbau performance include an increased tendency
toward improvisation, the use of electronics, additional
strings, combinations with new instruments, new rhythmic
styles, and solo performances. Following the innovations
of Brazilian percussionists, many non-Brazilian musicians
who creatively adopted the berimbau did so without
a prior knowledge of capoeira and approached the
instrument solely in the context of jazz and rock. Through
the process of reinterpretation, the increased range of
diverse performance techniques came to better fit the needs
of musicians who used the berimbau in new contexts,
and this facilitated the use of the instrument outside of
capoeira and beyond Brazil.
San Diego Mesa College, California
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Two. CD, Rebo Music 1231. 2001: USA.
Mondo Head. CD, SME SICP-1. 2001: Japan.
François. Berimbau: The Art of Berimbau (Brazilian
Musical Bow). CD, Musique du Monde SPACE
Four, The. The Scores. CD, Concord Jazz 6008. 1974:
Michael. Glub Glub Vol. II. CD, Sunnyside SSC 1077.
Saro. Lattesa. LP, RCA TPL1-1209. 1976: Italy.
Ensemble. Lunar Bear Ensemble. CD, Muworks CD 1006.
Yuki. Jazz Age: Gershwin Song Book I. CD, Ewe EWCD002.
Marcia. Marcia Maria. LP, Capitol 31C 062 421130.
Guy. Live. CD, Earthen Groove Records EGR003. 2004:
Sergio. Primal Roots. LP, A&M 4353. 1972: USA.
Pat and Lyle Mays. As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita
Falls. CD, ECM 78118-21190-2. SPACE
SPACE 1981: USA.
Patrick. Patrick Moraz. LP, Charisma 0798. 1978:
Airto. Natural Feelings. LP, Buddah BDS-21-SK.
Life After That. CD, Narada World 724359326726.
Ramiro. Sudaka. CD, Fast Horse 5. 2003: USA.
Dinho. Berimbau Blues. CD, Velas V 20166. 1996:
Gongolô. CD, Genteboa GB 002. 2000: Brazil.
Milton. Tostão, a fera de ouro. LP, Odeon
7BD1202. 1970: Brazil.
Miltons. CD, Columbia CK 45239. 1989: USA.
with Dom um Romão. LP, ECM 19003. 1977: USA.
Wind. Life Road. CD, JA & RO 08-4113. 1983:
[José de Ribamar Vianna]. Berimbau e Percussão:
Music and Rhythms of Brasil. CD, Universal SPACE
Sound US CD7.
Planador. LP, Continental 1.01.404.244. 1981: Brazil.
Iguaçu. CD, Wounded Bird WOU 149. 1977:
Alex. Alex Pertout. CD, Larrikin Entertainment
LRJ-273. 1993: Australia.
From the Heart. CD, Vorticity Music VM 010116-1.
Set with Baiafro, The New Dave. Salomão.
LP, MPS MB-21541. 1972: Germany.
Baden. Os Afro-Sambas. CD, Forma FM-16. 1965: Brazil.
Flora. 500 Miles High: Flora Purim at Montreux.
CD, Milestone OJCCD-1018-2 (M-9070). SPACE
Taufiq. Rhydhun: An Odyessy of Rhythm. CD. CMP
CD 81. 1995: India/Germany.
Nuno. Azul Esmeralda. CD, Ananana AN-LLL0001-CD.
Layne and Tommy Brunjes. Trance Union. CD, Golden
Seal CD 0100. 2000: USA.
Meat. Theres a Star Above the Manger Tonight.
CD, Sub Pop 387. 1997: USA.
N. Scott. World View. CD, New World View Music
NWVM CD-01/United One U1CD 402 SPACE
4569 3027 2.
Things That Happen Fast. CD, New World View Music
NWVM CD-02. 2001: USA.
Dom um. Dom Um. LP, Mercury 528 122-1. 1964: Brazil.
Adam. Adam Rudolphs Moving Pictures. CD,
Flying Fish FF 70612. 1992: USA.
Roots. CD, Roadrunner 8900. 1996: USA.
Under a Pale Grey Sky. CD, Roadrunner 618436. 2002:
Archie. The Cry of My People. LP, MCA 23082. 1972:
Soulfly. CD, Roadrunner 8596. 1998/1999: USA.
Primitive. CD, Roadrunner 8512. 2000: USA.
3+4. CD, Roadrunner International 84555. 2002:
Tribe. CD, 404 Music Group 8020. 2002: Australia.
Okay. Drummer of Two Worlds. LP, Finnadar SR 9032.
Oriental Wind. LP, Sonet SNTF 737. 1977: Sweden.
Magnet Dance. CD, Tip Toe TIP-888819-2. 1994: Germany.
Okay Temizs Magnetic Band: Magnet Dance.
CD, Vasco de Gama VDFCD 8000. SPACE
Steve. Exploded View. CD, ECM 1335 831 109-2. 1986:
Tucan Trio. CD, Nada NADA 16. 2000: Israel.
Artists. The Discoteca Collection: Missão de
Pesquisas Folclóricas. CD, Rykodisc RCD 10403.
Folklore e Bossa Nova do Brasil (Jazz Meets the World
1: Jazz Meets Brasil). CD, MPS SPACE
LP, Philips 765.119. 1970: Brazil (unidentified berimbau
Berimbau e CapoeiraBA. CD, Documentario Sonoro
do Folclore Brasileiro INF 46. SPACE
Naná. Africadeus. CD, Saravah SHL 38. 1972:
Amazonas. LP, Phonogram 6349.079. 1973: Brazil
Saudades. CD, ECM 1147 78118-21147-2. 1979: USA.
Nanatronics: Rekebra/Nanatroniko. LP (12"
single), Bagaria BAG-X 0190784. 1984: Italy.
Naná and Agustin Pereyra Lucena. El Increible
Naná con Agustin Pereyra Lucena. SPACE
TON-1020. 1971: Argentina.
Santiago. Raamón. CD, Lal 025. 2004: Argentina.
Caetano. Transa. CD, Polygram 838511. 1972: Brazil.
Peace Birthday. CD, Funny Time Label & Records
SB-202. 2002: Japan.
David. Skirl. CD, Avant 77. 1999: USA.
Report. Weather Report. CD, Columbia/Legacy CK-48824.
Live in Tokyo. CD, Sony International 489208-2.
Seichi. Voice of TEN. CD, Funny Time Label &
Records HOC-356. 1997: Japan.
Alex. The Rhythm Collector. 2007. Drum Workshop
(DVD). (Alex Acuña-berimbau).
Bira [Mestre Acordeon]. Capoeira Bahia. 1983. World
Capoeira Association (video).
Cortesão, Jorge. The Berimbau—volume 1.
1999. Bridges to Productions (video).
The Berimbau—volume 2. 1999. Bridges to Productions
Alexandre and Luiz Roberto Cloce Sampaio. O Berimbau-Brasileiro.
Everett: HoneyRock SPACE
Anselmo. O Pagador de Promessas. 1962 (film).
Cassio. Introduction to Brazilian Percussion. 2003.
LP LPV136-D (DVD).
Gilberto. Electracústico. 2004. WEA 5050467761025
(DVD & CD set).
(Oswaldo Lenine Macedo Pimentel). Cité.
2004. BMG AA0025000 (DVD).
Sheldon (director). Only the Strong. 1993. 20th
Century Fox (DVD).
Airto and Flora Purim. The Latin Jazz All-Stars Live
at the Queen Mary Jazz Festival. SPAC1985.
View NTSC1311 (video).
Ramiro. Sudaka: Ao Vivo. 2005. MCD MCD 304 (DVD
& CD set).
Joselito Amen. Sounds of Bahia: Introduction to Berimbau.
2006. Play My Game (DVD).
Michael. The Bridge. 1998. PBS (video).
Artists. Bahia de Todos os Sambas. 1983. Sagres
Woodstock Jazz Festival. 1981. Pioneer Artists
The Spirit of Samba: Black Music of Brazil. 1982.
The JVC Video Anthology of World Music and Dance. Vol.
28: The Americas 2. 1988. SPACE
Company of Japan (video).
Batouka: First International Festival of Percussion.
1989. Rhapsody Films (video).
The Music of Jimi Hendrix. 1995. TDK (DVD).
Pernambuco em concerto. 2000. África Produçoes
Naná. Berimbau. 1971. New Yorker Films (documentary
Goree, On the Other Side of the Water. 1990. UNESCO
- N. Scott Robinson. All rights reserved.