Understanding the meaning of the songs in Capoeira is a perfect way to grasp and understand the early history and life of the people of Brazil. The role of these beautiful songs in Brazilian Capoeira music, both as a cultural guide and teacher is invaluable to the art. There are many general songs which highlight this great game and accord it the respect it deserves. A tribute, to start with, towards this unique practice would be in order.
Capoeira songs tend to be simple, but rich in meaning. The Quadra style of singing involves singing four or more verses, by a single person, to which there is a chorus response from outside the roda. The start of the song emphasises the most vital part of Capoeira, defesa or defence before attack. The first priority of the Capoeira player should be to defend, as a successful game in the roda, can only be played using this technique. Capoeira's defence is primarily about avoiding attacks rather than blocking them as the game itself has not developed any blocking movements of its own. This clearly reflects the Capoeira's policy that it is an art which has been formed by oppressed people. If you fight force with force, the stronger person will always win, but if you can avoid the blow, then it doesn't matter how big or strong your opponent is. Agility always overcomes brute strength when it comes to Capoeira.
The song further refers to the "ginga", the most important and fundamental move of Capoeira, which describes its swing and sway motion, involving graceful moves of the entire body. "Malandragem" meaning a person acquiring cunning and deceptiveness, should be an additional quality of the player. This ability, to trick an opponent, can never be taught by anyone. It can only be mastered with experience of spending years in the roda circle.
The most unusual difference between capoeira and other martial arts is its music which accompanies the players while they are exhibiting their skills in the roda. It is this music which is the true attraction. Even if one cannot physically participate in the roda, the music allows you to be actively involved in the game on the same level as the capoeiristas, and thus reveal your hidden talent.
There is something thrilling and enchanting about the sound of unified voices of people, singing and clapping, with just one thought in mind; to motivate the two players in the roda. Out of the thousands of songs available in Capoeira, only a fraction of them has any significance, or a message to relay. Another handful of them has beautiful melodies. It is for this reason, those Capoeira songs sung are very selective, but rich in history and tradition.