Capoeira in Honolulu – Brazilian Community of Hawaii

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Beach Life

My daughter is married to a Brasilian man from Minas Gerais province, and I have made two trips to the country. When my daughter’s mother and father-in-law saw a picture of Waikiki beach at night, they first though it was Rio De Janeiro, then did a double take, when they realized that it wasn’t quite. Rio and Honolulu are two towns quite famous for the beaches. “beach life” is a big deal in Rio as well as here, and as you might expect there is a community of expatriate Brazilians in Honolulu.

Capoeira in Honolulu

A recent houseguest was an advanced Capoeira player, and on a whim I took her to a class in Kaneohe, the other side of the island. The leader was  Mestra Kinha, the impresario of Capoeira Besouro, and seemingly involved with all things Brazilian in this town.  We had fun. The Mestre was gracious, as befits a guru in any discipline. He took me aside and taught me one move that would allow me to join him in the circle;  it was mainly designed to make sure that I did not inadvertently get kicked in the face. Oh, Capoeira is designed as a no-contact sport, but only when both parties are well schooled in the art of ducking.  Yes folks I am out of shape, but in another life I have practiced a variety of sports including east European folk dancing. I have always enjoyed the challenge of doing  these little psychomotor games, mimicking the moves of a person opposite me. I was able to draw on this to take direction for the one thing I needed to know….. there is one key move you do when you can’t think of something better or when you simply don’t know any moves – that’s what he taught and that’s what I did. My friend Stephanie was happy to have met those people, and I was in awe of Stephanie’s mastery of Capoeira.

Hawaiian Brian’s

Last night I attended the fundraising event of Capoeira Besouro, held at Hawaiian Brian’s showroom. Let’s be honest here: I am not much for the bar scene. Most of the time I am in bed by 9:30 P.M. since I get up so early. This particular hangout  is not easy to find, either. Yes, Kapiolani Boulevard is a main drag, and number 1680 is right across from Club Rock Za  – one of the main strip clubs in this town. But –  HB’s is  in the back of a fitness club, there is no signage for it on Kapiolani Boulevard, whatsoever, you need to go up the stairs to ask where it is.  The showroom itself is tucked in behind the pool hall – about two dozen tables under lights. Low Key atmosphere, here.

But I know a good place to shoot pool, now. If I ever decide to.

Anyway, the place was clean, and there was a good vibe of anticipation as all the members of the Capoeira team were there, as well as members of the Samba class from UH. Yes, we have a samba class here – taught by Carmen, who happens to be the spouse of Mestra Kinha.

There was a kind of family vibe at the event, which was cool. a half-dozen kids running around. The evening started with a performance by the dance troupe, all wearing white outfits typical of Bahia, the coastal province which is home to so much Brazilian culture. The did a half dozen or so dances as an ensemble. The dancers were having fun, and made a nice visual display.  I thought back to my trips to Brasil, and what fun I had….. there is a certain day of the year where every one wears white – I think it’s New Year’s Day.

The Capoeira was next, and a ring formed, with Kinha on Berenboim and two drummers. Capoeira is a martial art but one which consists of out-displaying your opponent, not causing harm.  There is always an opportunity to show some gymnastic moves inn any performance, and here was a club that was fired up, lots of dazzling moves worthy of Olympic tumbling.  The circle includes both men and women, both genders were highly skilled.  behind me, a guy joined in on all the chants, I talked with him later and he is from Sampa (Sao Paulo). he now trains for triathlon but his kids are old enough now to enroll in Capoeira class.


Then the Samba band played, this was new to me. Most of the guys in the room were too shy to dance samba, or perhaps not sufficiently fired up with alcohol, but I am not afraid to make a fool of myself, so I joined in. Well-performed samba requires the ability to create hip gyrations at the rate of 240 per minute; I am not up to this speed, but of course, i am pleased to say that many of the lady members of the samba class, are able to meet or exceed this standard.

A prisoner of Forro

To my surprise and delight, the band played a short Forro set. This is my favorite genre of Brazilian music, exemplified by the band Falamansa. I own five of their CDs. I only have three DVDS here in Honolulu, and one is a concert DVD of Falamansa. If you have never seen Forro,  here is a link to some dancing that took place in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, when i was there in 2008. Chuva is one my favorite tunes – it’s about rain – the lyrics  compare rain to a blessing of holy water. One of the percussionists converted to the triangle for the forro tunes – you need a triangle and zabumba drum. Alas, the band did not have an accordionist… but give them time to find one. Accordionists are hard to find in this town.

Flashbacks to Brasil trip in 2008

On that same 2008 trip, I spent time travelling by myself to the coast. I took the night bus to Espiritu Santo, ending in ItaUnas, the forro capital of the world. The New Year’s Eve party there was particularly fun, some day I will tell that story. Here in Honolulu, the dancers kept the samba steps during the forro tunes, since the forro genre is not well known. Forro is a couple dance anyway, and the women on the dance floor outnumbered the men by five to one so it woudl have not been possible to pair off. A highlight of my time in Vittoria ES, was to attend dawn mass at the stone convent on the hill, scene of the oldest Catholic church in the western hemisphere. In 1510 the Spanish beseiged the town but never quite conquered the convent. That’s one the reasons they don’t speak Spanish in Brasil.

Carmen tells me that the guitar player for the samba band is from Salvador and is a forro teacher.  Maybe we will get a forro scene started here.

Any way, the next event for Capoeira Besouro is the annual Batizado, which starts Dec 7th and goes until Dec 10th. There are five guest out-of-town Capoeira masters on the program for that event, which goes every evening. This sort of concentrated practice is a chance to hone Capoeira skills, or to develop a solid beginner foundation. The event will culminate at Waimanalo Beach Sunday Dec 11th with a pot luck from 12 to 4 PM – “legal!”



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2 responses to “Capoeira in Honolulu – Brazilian Community of Hawaii

  1. Julie

    Pai, achei seu blog enfim! Estamos contentes em saber que voce esta praticando capoeira. Eh um bom exercicio, mas se precisa ser bastante flexivel e agil! Nos nunca tentamos, porem o Lucas esta convencido de que se tentar, ele vai se dar bem. Rsrs. Para concluir, acho legal que voce esta conhecendo os brasileiros residentes no Havai, porque esse ano voce vai saber aonde passar o Reveillon. Saudades, Julie

  2. Pingback: Some day I will organize my Junk Drawer | "Catch-Up's" long walk summer 2012

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