For Capoeira, unlike many games or martial arts, music is essential. Without it, the game is unimaginable. As a result, Capoeira resembles many cultural manifestations of African origin that are dependent upon the intimate relationship between music, movement, play, and spirituality. The music of Capoeira is important because it helps to integrate the mind, body, and spirit of the capoeirista (Capoeira player). Also, the music contributes to the playful character of the game.
The speed, quality, and intensity of the music determine the timing and movement of the player, while the aesthetic demand of a capoeirista's moves in relation to the rhythm prevents the art from becoming simplistic or purely aggressive. A good player must learn to balance the aesthetic and artistic elements of the art with the athletic and combative aspects. Powered by a fusion of rhythms summoned by the musician--moving to what is simultaneously a rhythm of dance and war--capoeiristas can often find unrecognized resources within themselves, and may even have experiences that can only be described as spiritual.
To say that the art is profound does not imply that it's not playful. In fact, it's exactly the blend of intimacy and respect, and humor and gravity, that makes the roda (the circle where Capoeira is played) a place that is entered with joy, laughter, and profound reverence. In so many cultures of Africa, it is music that brings together the natural and the supernatural, establishing a common language through which Gods and humans can communicate. The instruments and music of the roda are a link to cultural traditions, not just musical accompaniment for the game.
Music also assures a relationship between the player and the audience. Through the music, the leader of the orchestra can help preserve the correct relationship between players, prevent the contest from spinning out of control, and add energy to the lyrics of the songs. The singer may cajole, criticize, mock, praise, or challenge players, but it is always the unbreakable link between the music and the movement of the players that creates and sustains the roda.
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