Meet Bira Almeida – Mestre Acordeon

Acordeon2You are about to read an interview with one of the most influential poeple in todays Capoeira. Mestre Acordeon is one of the pioneers of capoeira in the city of São Paulo. In 1968, along with Airton Moura, Mestre Onça, he founded the K-poeira academy on Augusta Street, which was one of the best centers of teaching and learning capoeira in São Paulo. Today, in partnership with Mestre Rã, Acordeon has a school with more than 300 students in Berkeley, CA.

An excellent capoeirista, Mestre Acordeon still presents a fluidity of expression that allows him to play capoeira with his ideas and words, as we can see in the interview he had with Revista Capoeira during his recent visit to São Paulo:

Revista Capoeira: Where did you get the idea to teach Americans capoeira?

Mestre Acordeon: In 1970, when I returned to Salvador from São Paulo, I began to receive many letters from Sergio Assanhaço, who was studying at Stanford University at the time and teaching capoeira to a small group of friends. Assanhaço–one of my first students in São Paulo and later on the founder of Group Fonte do Gravatá–insisted that we go to the United States so much that we decided to form a performance group called Corpo Santo. After a long struggle, we were finally invited in 1978 by a large North-American company to do a series of shows in Texas. Two years later, the group returned to the States and I continued teaching, determined not to throw in the towel, although it was a very tough game.

Revista Capoeira: After teaching for so long outside of Brazil, how do you view capoeira? What meaning does it have for you?

Acordeon3Mestre Acordeon: In the introduction of my new book, “Agua de Beber, Camará!”, which will be published this year in Brazil, I wrote that Mestre Pastinha said that capoeira is everything the mouth eats. In response to the same question, Mestre Bimba replied “Capoeira is treachery.” In my view, these responses complement each other and reflect different positions of black Brazilians facing the fundamental problems of their existence. For Mestre Pastinha, capoeira was everything life offered him, philosophically accepting the good and the bad, including his humble economic and social position, his blindness, and his age as either divine gifts or deserved punishment. For Mestre Bimba, capoeira was a constant state of vigilance, an art that allowed him to see life’s dangers and injustices, and that at the same time offered a strategy with which to confront them. Based on the teachings of the great mestres I had the pleasure to know, and also through 40 years of contact with our art form, capoeira has become a way of life and a question of infinite possibilities. It has taught me to be tolerant of myself and of others, respecting my own weaknesses as well as my strengths. As time passed, capoeira came to be my every day bread, a fountain of physical and mental energy to face the world’s contradictions, and a pool of crystalline water to quench my thirst of knowledge.

Revista Capoeira: And what is capoeira to your students abroad?

Mestre Acordeon: To my students outside of Brazil, capoeira is a complex and fascinating art, a physical challenge, and a philosophical enigma that comes from a socio-cultural and historical context that is completely different from their own. However, capoeira has deep meaning for all true capoeiristas, responding to each one’s many questions of existence, independent of his or her nationality, sex, age, economic situation, or ethnicity.

Revista Capoeira: Do you think there are notable differences between Brazilian and American capoeiristas?

Mestre Acordeon: In the physical sense, not really. As the number of students outside of Brazil grows, the quality of the capoeiristas improves markedly. However, there are cultural differences that make the learning process slower and more difficult.

Revista Capoeira: Since you mentioned Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha, do you think that Capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional can both exist in harmony?

Acordeon1Mestre Acordeon: I have a lot of trouble with this question. My problem is two-sided: The first difficulty is regarding the inadequate use of the labels “Capoeira Angola” and “Capoeira Regional”. The second problem refers to a false dichotomy that generally isn’t questioned: it’s either Angola style or Regional.

Through literature and oral tradition, we are aware that capoeira has been around for more than 200 years. Around the second decade in the 1900’s, among many different mestres and styles, Bimba was recognized for his unique approach that came to be known as “Regional”…

Read the full interview with Mestre Acordeon, here: