berimbau e amigos

You know that feeling when you plot and plan to try and get something together for say, oh I don’t know, two years maybe, and then you actually just do it?!

No, of course not. You wouldn’t be that disorganised. No one would. Except for maybe a bunch of capoeiristas wanting to make themselves baus. Then maybe you will know how I felt today.

I have been training Capoeira for three years now. And for probably two years and six months of that time I and a couple of the other members of our group have wanted to get together to make ourselves berimbaus.

Slowly but surely we collected all of the materials we would need. Old tyres, Cabasus (calabash), stones, sticks, old shoes laces, dowels, glue, leather, nails and sandpaper. Each thing arrived in time as we all kept our eyes open and tried to collect what we needed without it costing too much.

But still we had nothing with which to make the Verde, or stick, itself. Until someone found a Youtube video on making them with bamboo. Now as it happens I have bamboo growing all my over garden like a badly kept, over excitable lawn.

So we were all set! We had everything we needed! And yet, for some reason, we just could not get the group together to do it.

For months the calabashes lay under my bed gathering dust. All over the greater Knysna lakes district various bits of baus lay rotting because we couldn’t find a day that suited everyone.

And then one day, after literally years of postponements, our funny little group just decided, we are doing this.

We will organise it ourselves. We will not wait around anymore for permission from anyone or a day that suited everyone. We stopped waiting for those people who were not inspired about the project to get inspired. Our inspiration and drive was enough. We organised the whole thing, downloaded the how to video, invited a few interested people we know to join us and we did it. In the end the only people who came were the same ones who have been trying to make it happen all along. But it was exactly the right crowd. Everyone’s heart was in it.

We made our very own berimbaus!

It took us an entire Saturday, a lot of sweat, a lot of laughter and a whole lot of baked beans on toast (because that is what you feed a group of hungry capoeirista’s and their families, especially when your sister has given you a 3.8kg can of baked beans as a joke).

We may not have the most professional baus ever made, but to me they are the most beautiful. Because every part of each one is not just a part of an instrument, it is also the time and energy of a friend, or of my own. Each piece is a joke that was laughed at or a story that was told, or a frustration that was aired. The culmination of all of those pieces is not just a musical instrument but also an instrument of friendship.

I finally understand why there are so many Capoeira songs about Berimbau’s and friendship. It is a beautiful thing to make together. And it is a real group effort! I am once again reminded of how capoeira is so much more than just a game that people play. It’s a family affair. The best Capoeiristas are not the ones doing flares and flying through the air at their opponents, they are the ones who are sitting next to you peeling bits of tyre off of a wire and helping you scrape the pith out of a calabash with a spoon. The best capoeiristas are the ones who will eat baked beans on toast with you in the winter sunshine.

Thank you to my beautiful friends and fellow fruit cakes. That particular arrangement of recycled materials has just become one of my most treasured items in all the world.

Today you didn’t make my day. Today was the kind of day that makes up a full and happy life.

o que é um berimbau? e cabasu, Arami, e um pedaço de pau


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