A quick thought from “The Blues” before I lose it.

I was fascinated by how so many Blues lyrics are criticisms of the man dressed up as paeans to the woman: My baby don’t treat me no good; she take all my money, shirt on my back etc. It resonated with another cultural practise of relocated black culture, the capoeira of Brazil. According to some research of this ritual/dance/martial art it was a way for slaves to train themselves for defence against their masters, cloaked in the innocence of a dance pastime, complete with instruments and chanting. These trappings became deeply embedded in the practise, until they became essential to it (although subsequent developments have led to mutliple approaches to the practise of capoeira, notably the formation of the Regional school – more formal, more martial-arts like than the looser and more expressive Angola form). I’ve been playing capoeira myself for about seven months now, having first been properly exposed to it in Brazil in what I thought at the time to be a pretty gruelling session – now I realise they were taking it real real easy on us. I’ve since learned that this pretty little meme is actually disputed by a lot of capoeira historians. It appears implausible to claim that all the different components of capoeira – the berimbau, pandeiro and all the other instruments, the ritualistic elements and songs all arose simply as cover for its functional aspect of self defence. Besides, there is evidence that cultural expression like singing/dancing was itself repressed in any case. What capoeira seems to be is a curious amalgam of all its incongrous aspects, a game that is a fight, a fight that is a dance, a song that is a ritual. So in one sense the parallel is less striking than I could have claimed. Nevertheless was interesting for my white ass to see another example of the expressive means that were born out of being the powerless man in a strange land, and their common origins in ancient practises on a vast distant continent.

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