Music is fundamentally integral to the art of Capoeira. Rich in history, tradition, and influence, Capoeira music affects the style and speed of the game that is played. There are three major instruments that are regularly played: the berimbau (a Brazilian instrument of African origin shaped like a bow with one string and a hollowed gourd to project sound), the atabaque (a Brazilian drum), and the pandeiro (a tambourine).
Depending on the rhythm and speed these instruments play, the Capoeiristas will adapt and change their style of play and strategy. Capoeira music directly affects whether a game is fast or slow, passive or aggressive, low to the ground, or flying through the air. Just as Capoeira itself has evolved throughout its history, so has Capoeira music. The berimbau is the head instrument; all other instruments follow as the berimbau changes in speed or rhythm.
As Capoeira evolved, new rhythms were created on the berimbau to create new styles and games to accommodate changes. Mestre Bimba created a rhythm called Banguela (now commonly known as Benguela), dictating a medium-paced game focusing on moving close to the opponent, strategizing, and reacting to their movements. The game was created to help his students (who practiced a faster, upright style later called Capoeira Regional or Regional de Bimba) learn to deal with the more traditional Capoeira players who trained the deceptive Capoeira Angola style.
Apart from dictating the style of the game, Capoeira music plays other important roles as well. Music is the greatest contributor to the axé, or energy, of the game. The soloist and chorus provide a constant rhythmic background to those playing the game of Capoeira, providing energy and encouragement. The lyrics of Capoeira music often tell stories about famous mestres, lessons to be learned playing the game, historical figures, or events important to the art. The words can even speak directly to the players in the game that is going on, giving insight or instruction. It has often been noted that without its music, Capoeira would be something else entirely.