The Roda

The roda is the circle where Capoeira manifests. It is made up of Capoeiristas, but also could have spectators.
In the centre, two Capoeiristas express themselves and have an exchange that is dictated by the sound of the bateria and the choir consisting of other participants.
Occupying a portion of the circle, the bateria sets the key and directs the roda. It decides about the beginning, the stoppage, the speed, the intensity and the type of game to be played and also has to foresee a danger. The Gunga berimbau leads the roda. It’s a symbol of control, stability and maturity and is played by the one who is organising the roda, i.e. often the Mestre of the group, who initiates the roda but who can also delegate his role to another Capoeirista who can take his place playing the Gunga. The one playing the Gunga will also be the main singer. He therefore completes the circle of responsibilities to manage the roda. On the whole, the Gunga takes decisions about all the details of the roda, and its energy. Depending on the song he sings, he may recommend something specific or recount what is happening between the two Capoeiristas with a play of words.
The Professors, Contra-Mestres and Mestres remain in charge of the roda, because due to their experience, they are able to manage multiple tasks that fall upon the person that leads the roda: setting the rhythm, maintaining it, changing it if required, singing, improvising, connecting with the players and the environment of the roda,… This task requires a level of concentration that can only be achieved by means of experience.
The professor / Mestre of the group would often delegate the responsibility of the roda to his Mestre or if there is someone present that he respects or to whom he wants to allocate responsibility. Never forget that respect is an important value in Capoeira, as it is in daily life.
The way the roda is held largely depends on the group and on the style of game they play. In any case, the two players (or one of them) enter facing each other from each side of the bateria presenting themselves in front or at the foot of the Gunga berimbau.


The roda formation is natural and it was probably developed in the streets. There is nothing more natural than a crowd gathering around an event. The crowd would naturally leave space for the exchange to happen.
If we were to put into context the idea of a Senzala, then, the Capoeira, Samba and other exchanges would probably happen after dark, surely near a camp fire and hence, a closed circle may not have been the most natural form because it would have obstructed the light from the fire. We can imagine that they would have had a more open space with the fire on one side or at the centre, an open space for the dance or for the fight and above all, many different activities would have been going on at the same time.
The current form of the roda surely comes from the streets. It would happen during the day or later under street lights. During the day, the vendors would probably attract their clients by sounding an instrument (maybe a berimbau?). At the end of the market day, we can imagine that the vendors would gather to discuss or to have an exchange and possibly share a moment or two doing Capoeira.
The Samba rodas were probably easier to organise. The Capoeira games could be interrupted by Samba (only among women or not?) when a landlord or a policeman would come around.


The roda process

A roda generally lasts for one to two hours but it can also go on for much longer depending on the energy or on what has been planned by the Mestre. In general a roda’s energy increases and fluctuates ending in a peak of energy. The energy of the roda depends on the style and also on the number of participants. The more the people, the higher the energy and hence, the roda will last longer (however, within certain limits of course).
A roda often begins with a ladainha and hence with an Angola or Benguela rhythm. In Capoeira Regional, the roda begins with a quadra which can therefore be sung on a quicker rhythm. While the Mestre sings his lament, the first two players present themselves at the feet of the Gunga. Please refer to the article about the bateria to know more about what happens in this instance: Bateria.
Once the ladainha is over, the louvaçoes or chula are sung, they are praises sung to the important elements of Capoeira and of life in general (to God, the master, the players, Capoeira, the moment that is passing,…). The Mestre then begins to sing a corrido and motions the players to begin. It is wise for the players not to ask the permission to play before the Mestre has sung the first verse of the corrido. Each chant has a meaning associated to it and gives direction to the players.
The pace of the roda and the rhythm played will depend on the players, their connection, the intensity of their exchange and also on where the Gunga wants to direct them. The game can therefore be accelerated intentionally by the Mestre during a game or in between two games.

Depending on the group, the style and the moment, the players enter the roda in different ways:

  • One by one, by buying the game (comprar o jogo): often used in fast games. The Capoeirista that wants to play, enters the roda and intervenes between the two players that are already playing in the roda. He faces the one with whom he will play, usually the one that entered the roda the last. It’s customary not to buy a game in which a Mestre or a Contra-Mestre is playing in order to respect what they are doing.
    The manner in which one enters a roda depends on the group, but it’s always from the same point: the space between a participant in the roda and the bateria. Depending on the group, the next player goes on his knees on the side of the roda, requesting permission from the Gunga to enter (so as not to disturb the ongoing game). This step is sometimes overlooked.
    The games are often short and the roda is often with a high energy. The player will leave the roda from the closest place that he is to avoid any accident.
  •  Two by two, by buying the game: as seen above, except that two of them intervene to motion that they want to play.
    In a high energy roda, this will often happen when two people want to play together. In a traditional rod, this happens randomly.
  • Two by two, after each one’s turn: this is the classic formation of games in Capoeira Angola. The roda is often organised in such a way that the people closest to the bateria will be the next ones to play. We therefore do not choose with whom we will play, which makes the games unexpected and removes the possibility of preferences that we may have, but also the difference in style or level. The game ends when the Gunga calls the players back, the two players leave the roda from the edges of the bateria from the side each player is kneeling when they are called back.
    In such a roda, Professors, Contra-Mestres and Mestres often do not wait and will pass in front of other players or even choose with whom they want to play. Do not take offense.

The Mestre can also decide who will play with whom, particularly during an internal roda where he might want a student to push himself or to exceed.

Never forget that each roda is different. The first thing that you must do is to respect the roda that you are entering. Observe, learn from the ways and customs of the roda, request permission from the Mestre who is organising it, enter and have fun.

The Capoeira Angola roda may differ according to the Mestres. We have already talked about the instruments, but some details are still to be explained or repeated. Firstly, it should be noted that one does not enter a roda without presenting oneself to the person who is organizing the roda and without first checking whether it is an open roda or not.
Most groups will only allow those who are appropriately dressed to enter the roda. It should, at the very least, be a clean outfit consisting of a pant and a belt, a pair of shoes and a t-shirt tucked inside the pants. Sometimes, a specific colour may also have to be worn (often white or yellow/black).
The bateria, consisting of the ensemble of instruments, is the starting point and the end point of all rodas. The Capoeiristas begin at the foot of the berimbau and finish there as well.
Like in any other style, the roda is made up of its participants who sit in a circle on the floor. The members of the bateria are often sitting on a bench against a wall or they are facing the room where the roda is being held. The instruments are generally organised in one of these ways (from left to right):

  •  Berimbau gunga, berimbau medio, berimbau viola, pandeiros, agogo, reco-reco, atabaque.
    This formation allows for a logical sequence of coordination of instruments and a balance is attained by having the most prominent instruments at each opposite end. This also allows for the Gunga to be the entry point of the roda and it can therefore receive the Capoeiristas from here. It is also a logical order for the beginning of the line of instruments.
  • Agogo, reco-reco, pandeiro, berimbau medio, berimbau gunga, berimbau viola, pandeiro, atabaque.
    This formation allows for a centred distribution of instruments with a better relation between them and the Gunga. It also allows the Capoeiristas to meet at the centre of the bateria and not at one of the entry points.
  • Berimbau viola, berimbau medio, berimbau gunga, pandeiros, agogo, reco-reco, atabaque.
    This formation is more centred than the first one, it enables the berimbau not to be at one of the entry points of the roda.

Each instrument must help each other to maintain the rhythm. The main focus is evidently the Gunga. This is why the Gunga will often be playing a rhythm without too much improvisation.
To keep a good coordination, the berimbaus and the pandeiros directly look towards the Gunga for the rhythm. The other instruments, which are farther, refer to the pandeiro. Due to their high predominance in sound level, in the bateria, the atabaque, the pandeiros and the berimbaus are reserved for the experienced Capoeiristas.

The roda can be held inside or outside depending on the wishes of the person organising it. The participants sit in a circle starting from the bateria. Once the circle is ready, a long repetitive low tone note is played on the berimbau gunga to demand the attention of each participant. The rhythm of the game is then set by the Gunga which will be quickly supported by the other berimbaus and then by the pandeiros. Then a cry (Iiiiiiéééééééééééé) will signal the beginning of the roda before the roda presentation song (ladainha) is sung by the Mestre. In this song, he can recount the history of Capoeira, can share a life lesson, or can sing about his experience or about the experience of another person. As soon as the berimbau makes the call, the two players that are closest to the bateria, will join each other in front at the feet of the berimbau gunga, listening to the ladainha attentively and concentrating on the game they are going to play. After the ladainha, the louvaçoes are sung to thank the elements that make up Capoeira and life itself. The agogo, the reco-reco, the atabaque and the choir then join in the musical ensemble. The end of the louvaçoes is sometime indicated by the words “iiiééé vamos embora”, and then, the first sentence of the first corridos (songs that will be sung for the remainder of the roda) will be sung, the two players will request for permission to play from the gunga, and the gunga will either be lowered, or the person playing it will motion the players to start playing by making a sign with his head or with his foot.
The game then begins and will only end when the gunga calls back the two Capoeiristas to its feet with the same repetitive tone that it played at the beginning of the roda. At this time, the two players come back together, thank each other by shaking hands or by hugging each other and leave the roda from the same point they entered. The next two players then enter the roda (always the two persons closest to the instruments). The Capoeiristas that go out will sit opposite the bateria from outside.
It is better for each participant in the roda to sit with their legs closed, with their knees at the height of their face and their feet flat on the floor so that they can react quickly and protect themselves if one of the players in the roda falls in their direction.
The roda often ends with an ending song: Boa a viagem. The end of the roda is different in different groups and it also depends on the occasion, but the closure is similar in all rodas: the gunga makes a call and then a short “Ié” is yelled by the gunga.

Always pay attention to the Gunga during the roda. Its repetitive tone is always used to call back the players to its feet but not necessarily to begin or stop a game. Sometimes, it can also mean something specific for the players (untied shoe laces, t-shirt not tucked in, a reminder, danger…). There could be many reasons and they are told when required.

It is simpler than Capoeira Angola but lives up to it in all respects.
Its bateria consists of one berimbau and two pandeiros in order to maintain the rhythm played as is perceivable by all.

The circle is made by the Capoeiristas, but in this case, they are all standing. Like in Angola, the players come to the foot of the berimbau to ask permission to play. The games are short owing to their intensity and they are only stopped when the berimbau calls for it (the person playing the berimbau will simply say “mais dois”) or when both the players are satisfied.

The rhythms played are:

  • Banguela
  • Sao Bento Grande
  • Idalina
  • Santa Maria
  • Amazonas
  • Cavalaria
  • Iuna

A last rhythm is played as the anthem of Capoeira Regional: Hino da Capoeira Regional…

One must pay attention to the rhythm and adapt to it. This is one of the reasons why Mestre Bimba wanted only one berimbau and two pandeiros.

Here, the quadras replace the ladainhas which would be too long for a fast paced rhythm. Then, corridos, which originate from the tradition of Capoeira, are sung.

Certain groups operate with two types of rodas: one internal and one open to all (Roda Aberta).

The internal roda enables students to implement the techniques or sequences that they learnt but it also enables the Mestre to observe, give advices and help the students to progress. This is done informally at the end of the class or on a regular basis, within the academy. The concept of internal rodas is relatively new in Capoeira; these exist since the establishment of academies. Only the students of the group / Mestre will join the roda.

The Roda Aberta is a publicly announced roda open to any group, any Capoeirista of all levels. Since Capoeira is a social art, it encourages exchanges between Capoeiristas and allows exposure towards others. For the students, it becomes an opportunity to play with Capoeiristas whose level they don’t know or whose style they don’t know either. It enables an exchange of knowledge, of techniques, helps them become better, create friendships,… These rodas are held either in the academy or outside.

A ‘Roda de Rua’ has nothing to do with a ‘Roda na Rua’ except for the location where the roda is held. We, however, often hear about road rodas as if it was something common and we practically never hear about the latter.

  • A Roda na Rua is simply a roda organized by a group on the streets, whether on a regular basis or not. The group may allow other Capoeiristas enter the roda or not and this does not change the format of the roda. The groups often wear their uniforms or their official colours. It’s a good way to promote one’s work, to expose oneself and to share.
  • A Roda de Rua is a roda that was developed on the streets. Note that it does not belong to a specific group but rather to a place, even though it is often organised by a specific person or by a group of people. No uniform is worn and we often don’t know half the people that are participating, where they come from or even their level. The Rodas de Rua are hard and require a good level because we could be confronted by people from various origins and with different intentions. There are no rules in these rodas, only malandragem. As examples of contemporary street rodas, the roda in the Duque de Caxias and the Roda of Mestre Lua Rasta are famous.

Street Rodas were evidently more prevalent in the past, and some of them were quite famous.