The Berimbau (bee-rim-bau) is a percussion instrument with an African origin. It is the main instrument that is used in the Capoeira music and it is the one that defines the capoeira game – angola or regional. It is relatively complex and consists of a flexible wooden rod called “pau” or “verga”, a steel string called “arame” and gourd called “Cabaça”. The Berimbau is played with the help of a small thin stick called varreta, a coin called dobrao and a caxixi.
Every part of the Berimbau has its unique role in the music and the rythm it produces. Below ,you will see the Berimbau composites explained in details.
Pau (verga) – this wooden stick is called to be the backbone of the Berimbau. It could be made of any wood, however the sacred African Berimba tree is considered to give the best material for this instrument. This is where the Berimbau gets its name.
Arame – usually the same as the metal string used in the automobile tires or the piano. It has to be strong enough to handle the pushes made with the Baqueta to produce the sound.
Cabaça – this is actually a hollowed-out and dried gourd. It is used to implify the sound of the Arame.
Baqueta – it is a made of a wood and is used to strike the Arame and produce sound.
Dobrao – it is used to diversify the sound of the Berimbau. When attached to the metal string it produces low sound and vice versa when not attached to the metal string the sound becomes higher. An alternative of the coin (dobrao) could be a small flat-formed stone (pedra).
Caxixi – a small percussion instrument, which consists of a closed basket full with seeds. It needs to be shacked to produce sound. It is shaken when the baqueta strikes the arame. It is believed that the caxixi summons the good spirits and wards the evil ones.
To pull a Berimbau together, the Arame is attached to both ends of the Pau and is pulled tight which causes the Pau to bow. At the one end of the Berimbau is attached the Cabaca with the help of a lace. This lace helps the musician held the Berimbau with a pinky finger while playing on it.
There are three sizes of Berimbau for a different rythm:
Gunga: comes with the largest Cabeca and the most flexible Pau.
Medio: it is characterised with a smaller, medium Cabaca.
Viola: comes with the smallest Cabeca and the less flexible Pau.