Categorized | BLOG, visitors blog

The Saints in Capoeira Music

Posted on 14 February 2008 by chan


Written by Sarah Bartch

Some of the capoeira songs that we sing make references to certain catholic saints. Songs with religious references are often quite obscure and it can be very hard to try to understand the depths of the words especially without any cultural background knowledge. Also, often the meanings are purposely veiled in the simplicity of the song. I don’t pretend to offer you any interpretations, that is up to the singer and the listener, but here is a tiny summary about some of the Saints. There are many songs, these are just a few.

Ai ai ai ai
Sao Bento me chama
Ai ai ai ai
Sao Bento me quer
Ai ai ai ai
Sao Bento me leva
Ai ai ai ai
Sao Bento me prende

Ai ai ai ai
Saint Benedict is calling me
Saint Benedict wants me
Saint Benedict takes me
Saint Benedict holds me

Sao Bento is the name given to some of the toques; Sao Bento grande and Sao Bento pequeno. Sao Bento was also the saint to be prayed to for protection from snakes. Legend has it that Saint Benedict was offered a cup of poison by some monks and as he blessed the cup, it shattered and so he could not be poisoned.


O Santa Barbara que relampue
E Relampue que relampua

Saint Barbara brings lightning.

Saint Barbara’s African religious counterpart was Iansa, Orixa (spirit) of wind and storm and also queen of the souls of the dead. The African people would sing and prey to Iansa to send lightning down to fertilise the land. She was impulsive and loved to dance. Iansa was also known to change shape into different animal forms.

Vai voce, vai voce?
Dona Maria como vai voce?
Vai voce, vai voce?
Dona Maria como vai voce?
Joga bonito que eu quero aprender.
Dona Maria como vai voce?
Mas como passou, como vai voce?
Dona Maria como vai voce

How are you, how are you?
Lady Maria how are you?
Play beautifully because I want to learn.
Who is that passing by?

Donna Maria translates to Lady Mary. One of the interpretations of this song may be refering to Saint Maria, mother of god. Santa Maria was parallelled with Yamanya who was the African-Brazilian spirit of the ocean and rivers and moon. Yamanya is caring, nurturing and merciful but also, like the sea, deep and unknown. She is ruler of riches but also of witches, secrets, vanity and jealousy. Some people believe that the song “sai sai catarina” also refers to Yamanya of the sea. Santa Maria is also the name of one of the toques of Mestre Bimba.


Tags | , , ,

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Hi Chan

    does the prominance and use of the Saint songs vary according to geography or background of a Mestre, given that there is a large body of songs that seem decidely more ‘secular’?

    I understand for instance that Mestre Bimba was an initiated Ogan in Candomble?


Leave a Reply