Capoeira is a game of physical dexterity and cunning, incorporating dance and martial arts, which has managed to twist and kick its way around the world. Created by African slaves, nearly 500 years ago, capoeira movements were so disguised so as to deceive their masters into thinking that it was just a game whereas actually self-defence techniques were being perfected.
In a country rich in rhythms, and a variety of musical instruments, the pandeiro surprisingly, finds itself as the national instrument of Brazil, and an icon for most of their games.
The pandeiro (pahn-day-ro), as it is found in that country, is a simple variation of the well known common tambourine. It consists of a type of typical hand-held round wooden frame drum made of animal skin or nylon, attached with six pairs of metal discs called jingles. Pandeiros come in various sizes, but the ones mostly used in capoeira are 10",11" or 12" in diameter. It differentiates itself from the tambourine in that it has a turnable head, which enables the cup-shaped jingles attached to the sides to emit a crisp and dry sound of lower resonance than the tambourine.
The pandeiro is a simple instrument to play but difficult to master. By holding one end in the weaker hand, the other hand is used in a variety of ways to create different rhythms. However, an experienced player can use it to make an incredibly complex range of sounds by alternatively using the thumbs, fingertips, heel and palm of the hand or even by just shaking it or striking it against his hips or any other part of his body as the occasion may demand. The pandeiro is considered the second most important instrument in capoeira. It assists in maintaining the beat and pulse of the game along with the atabaque, especially when a player falls, gets kicked etc and a variation is called for. However, the main role is simply to generate a constant rhythm by which the berimbau can relay the correct message to keep command of the roda.
Music and dance is an integral part of Brazil and deeply embedded in its soul and culture. Samba is the lively and rhythmical national dance of Brazil, which has developed distinct styles and varies diversely from place to place, depending on the custom and regional influence of that area. Indigenously, the word "samba" means 'roda' or circle to dance within. There is actually a series or sets of dances, rather than a single dance to define the samba; thus no one dance style can be said with certainty to have its origin from samba.
Samba's unique style of dancing has had a great influence on capoeira as they compliment each other with their loud clapping, vigorous dancing, theatrics and cheeky tricks amongst the players accompanied by reverberations of lively music. Capoeira songs can be made to depict virtually anything, be it history, fact or even hidden messages simply by changing the lyrics or tone of the music, thereby conveying what is happening inside or outside the roda circle. These songs are mostly in a call and response sequence or in the form of a narrative. The pandeiro is used in many types of Brazilian art' including the capoeira and the samba. In fact, the pandeiro was eventually introduced to samba by way of capoeira, but long after the other principal instruments, namely the berimbau and atabaque.
Capoeira is extremely beautiful and one of the most difficult and also interesting martial arts to master. The experience and skill of playing in the roda creates a lot of self-confidence and builds a reservoir of will power and strength in the body. Before the banning of capoeira, samba and capoeira were always played together and mostly at the same place. This was because the practice itself was not primarily only a practice lesson but also a disguise for martial arts with an automatic inbuilt defence mechanism also in place in case of sudden arrival of their colonial masters, or other authorities, by just indicating to the players by a simple change of tone, from the instrument being played, the group of samba girls would jump into the circle and start dancing to distract attention from the real game. In this case, the pandeiro, would by way of variation, do this job perfectly along with the atabaque etc. Trickery was ever present and an expert could easily disguise an attacking hold as a friendly gesture to further confuse the viewers.
The art of capoeira has become an iconic symbol of Brazilian culture, ethnic fusion and fight against persecution. The capoeira dance and samba music have become a source of pride for the country and people of not only Brazil but the rest of the world. Capoeira continues to be a ritual dance- fought game and the pandeiro has become be an indistinguishable instrument in commanding the sessions of the capoeira game as well as complimenting the samba dance.
Capoeira and samba routines are an active example of Brazilian culture enjoyed almost in all countries by persons of all ages. It is a true symbol of Brazil's resilience toward oppression and has become a source of pride for the people of Brazil.