Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Capoeira: The Jogo de Angola from Luanda to Cyberspace, Volume Two (Capoeira)
written by Gerard Taylor
Book Review by Dan Tres OMi
I almost missed the second volume of Capoeira: The Jogo de Angola from Luanda to Cyberspace. It was published a year ago. Ironically, I waited for this book but it somehow fell off the radar. While rummaging through the aisles of Borders book store with a 40% off coupon, I saw the word “Capoeira” poking out through some other books. I pulled it out and realized it was Volume II. I read Gerard Taylor's first volume in the later part of 2006. I was impressed with it. Taylor has tackled Capoeira like no other non-Brazilian. In the first volume, he covered a great amount of material before he even touched Capoeira. In the last volume, Taylor left us off during Capoeira's malandro period right after the emancipation of . In the second volume, he picks it right up during the Estado Novo (the new State) under the Getulio Vargas regime.
As in Volume I, Taylor provides a wealth of information that becomes the background from which Capoeira springs from. Sometimes, when people study Capoeira they tend to leave out so much of it's rich cultural history. They usually just fly through the slavery part and make a few references. Taylor heaps not just the economics and the history of slavery, but the politics of the post colonial era, and the racial dynamics that make Brazil a unique country all it's own.
The biggest chapter in Volume II is the one about Capoeira Consumption. Taylor attempts discuss why Capoeira has taken off not just in U.S. Pop culture but around the world. He discusses how the free world market has helped Capoeira but has also harmed it. Taylor even provides a few solutions. What makes this chapter interesting is how Taylor points out how non-Brazilians have approached Capoeira and expressed their own interpretations of it physically. Taylor brings up some good arguments and leaves several debates open to discussion. He even provides a section where he summarizes other books on Capoeira. This is extremely helpful.
My favorite part has to be the section on the Academy period of Capoeira. Taylor tells the usual story about Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha. What sets Taylor apart from other authors is that he tells the history of other schools and mestres that sprang up around the same time as Bimba and Pastinha. Taylor discusses schools that never made it out of Brazil. Taylor also clears some myths and adds in new stories that will sure bring in more debate.
Some might shy away from the size of the book. A few Capoeristas might sleep through it since you won't find explanations on how to cartwheel one's way out of a bar fight. For any true Capoeirista, both volumes of Taylor's book should be in his or her library. Taylor should be commended for such an ambitious work. As a scholar, I find Taylor's work to be vital to the continuing scholarship of Capoeira. There are a few books about Capoeira published in English that are worth the paper they are printed. Taylor has exceeded that price and I hope that his work inspires other to continue to seek out the old mestres and students for some primary sources.