Brazilian Capoeira in the Bay Area

Introduction

Two local capoeira schools were the focus of this ethnographic project. FICA Oakland (also referred to as ICAF) is a school based in Oakland, CA. Capoeira Narahari is a school based in East Palo Alto, CA.

Synopsis

There is a rich presence of capoeira in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are several schools in San Francisco, Oakland, East Bay, Peninsula, and South Bay. Interestingly, as each instructor (most are Brazilian, though many are not) has their own style and personality, the capoeira movement style and attitudes are also varied across all these groups. Students within both FICA Oakland and Capoeira Narahari schools strongly reflect the outlook and philosophy of their respective teachers. Between the two groups, there are some differences in movement style and attitude. Also, there are differences in how much of other parts of Brazilian culture are emphasized and taught as part of the capoeira student’s experience. However, there were more similarities in the internal experience of the capoeira students from both groups – they all share a deep enjoyment of the art. The element they value most is the fluid, wordless conversation that occurs between two people who are connected while they play capoeira. This flow state is what makes it fun, and probably the reason why the art is spreading all over the world.

Biographies of Instructors

Treinel* Daniel Mattar is the main instructor at FICA Oakland, under the guidance of Mestre Jurandir. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Daniel trained with Mestre Marrom. He moved to the Bay Area in 2002, and soon assumed a teaching role at FICA. He not only teaches both kids and adults at the center in Oakland but also holds adult training sessions in Sunnyvale, CA. He organizes a weekly “roda” at FICA Oakland where students from his and other schools get together to play Capoeira Angola. He gives demonstrations at local public schools as well. Daniel is a knowledgeable and very dedicated instructor who hopes to spread and establish Capoeira Angola in the Bay Area.

Mestre** Beiçola is the instructor and creator of Capoeira Narahari. Also from Rio de Janeiro, he came to the United States in 1988 as part of the Oba Oba performance company which toured internationally, as well as performed on Broadway, Las Vegas, and Hollywood. For over the last twenty years, Mestre Beiçola has been teaching capoeira as well as other elements of Brazilian culture (samba, Afro-Brazilian dance, percussion, etc.) based in the Bay Area. He teaches classes for kids and adults in all of these areas of Brazilian culture and performs as a percussionist in local music ensembles. Over the last couple decades, he and his students have performed countless shows at Stanford University and other local schools and private events, bringing Brazilian culture and art to the Bay Area.

*Treinel is the title given to someone in Capoeira Angola indicating a high-level instructor

**Mestre is the title given to someone in capoeira who has many years of experience, has master-level ability to play and teach capoeira, and has devoted one’s life to propagating the art and culture of capoeira.

Interview Excerpts:

Treinel Daniel on 5/5/2014 in Oakland, CA. Interviewed by Megha Makam

“If the music is too good, your back can be hurt, knees bad, you’re saying you can’t play, and you go in and play, you know, capoeira has something special. You can call some neuroscientists to say if that’s the endorphins or anesthesia or whatever, but it has some crazy things…”

FICA Oakland - studio

FICA Oakland – practice space

FICA entrance

FICA entrance

More info about FICA can be found at http://www.ficaoakland.org/index.htm

Mestre Beiçola on 5/18/2014 in Palo Alto, CA. Interviewed by Megha Makam

“That’s why they say capoeira is the world…that’s why they say the roda represents the world. Because there’s a lot of things you know, music, dance, social…there’s a lot of things. And it goes beyond, because after that, people get together, go to parties, spend time together…and they learn how to work together…capoeira is really rich, it has music, martial arts…there’s a lot of things in capoeira”

Advanced students testing

Capoeira Narahari Batizado 2008

Percussionists playing samba with Mestre Beiçola at a local performance in 2009

More info about Capoeira Narahari and Mestre Beiçola can be found at http://brazivedas.com

 Click the link below for a musical sample –

Capoeira Narahari

Researcher – Megha Makam

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