Mestre of the month

Mestre Leopoldina

‘Dermeval Lopes de Lacerda’

(Dec 2nd 1933 – Oct 17th 2007)

Mestre Leopoldina passed away at the age of 74 in Sao Paulo Brazil.

Leopoldina’s live story starts less prosperous in Rio de Janeiro though. He didn’t grow up with his own mother and therefore he was often beaten and neglected. At a certain age he decided to leave his home. He slept in train wagons and made living selling sweets at public places. He started to make up rhymes to enhance his selling and also started to sell in the trains. People say he was nicknamed after one of Rio’s train stations, but he states that his nickname was after a locomotive he used to imitate. Having lived like this for a while Leopoldina heard of a place were street children were sheltered and fed. This made the struggle a bit easier.

Somewhere in 1952 or ’53 at the age of nineteen was the first time Leopoldina encountered Capoeira. He saw a guy named ‘Quinzinho’ leaping from left to right, standing on his feet and next on his hands. Leopoldina thought:’ Wow, I want to learn that stuff’. In order to do so he had to get nearer to his only example (Capoeira had been prohibited till that time and was therefore nearly absent in public live). This guy Quinzinho was a ‘malandro’ (as in criminal). Just a month before him being released from five years of imprisonment, Leopoldina started to go to the bars frequented by Quinzinho and offered him beers.

One of those occasions all of a sudden Quinzinho grasped Leopoldina’s hat challenging him to a fight. Leopoldina had a reputation as a street fighter to live up to. But at every move he made, Quinzinho easily leaped away. Finally Leopoldina had to give up. He was scared, but knew he had to come up with something. He left for the place where he hid his knife. On his way someone, seeing how upset Leopoldina was, stopped him to find out what was going on. Explaining him, Leopoldina spotted the boy to whom Quinzinho had given the hat, still wearing it. Leopoldina took it back and used other routes for a while. One day he was waiting at the final stop for the bus to come. When it arrived, first six of Quinzinho’s friends and finally Quinzinho himself came out.
When Quinzinho saw that all of his friends were happy to see Leopoldina again, he smiled and accepted him as part of the group. Now Leopoldina felt confident to reveal his wish to learn Capoeira. The first morning he arrived at Quinzinho’s house in a Favela, Quinzinho had already left. But from the next day on he came every day at seven to train with Quinzinho at the front of his house. Quinzinho would show him a movement and ask him to imitate it. Quinzinho didn’t use any names for the  movements.
After three or four months they could play together and Leopoldina was joining in Quinzinho’s fame, because he was the only one that could play with him. One day the two came across someone who could also play. This guy was called ‘Juvenil’. He invited Leopoldina to come play a little. When Juvenil struck Leopoldina with a ‘meia-lua’, Quinzinho pulled his gun and put it on Juvenil’s head saying: “Don’t do that. You will make him afraid to learn”. One of the other adventures Leopoldina had with Quinzinho was when the latter made him drink a few shots of straight cachaça (sugarcane liquor) before training. It made Leopoldina so sick and dizzy, that he kept easy on the stuff for the rest of his life. Finally Quinzinho got killed in a dispute over a woman. Now Leopoldina had to train by himself. He would do so on a soccer field, very early in the morning: “Otherwise people would say I was some lunatic!”.

The next capoeirista whom Leopoldina met was called Artur Emidio. He was top performer at the Waldemar Santana Academy. The owner of the academy had heard that Leopoldina could play Capoeira and invited him to come see the performance. Leopoldina entered a new world on the day of that performance. At first he even wondered if Artur was gay. Leopoldina was used to the dressing code of the malandros: wearing toe slippers and a scarf around his neck. The people at the academy were of different social standing. Though after Artur had done his solo, Leopoldina knew he had found a better player then Quinzinho. Artur had heard another capoeirista was present and invited him to come and play. Leopoldina made a good impression on Artur, because he invited Leopoldina to come to his lesson. The new contacts Leopoldina made in this group got him a job of which he enjoyed a pension until the day of his death. This is how Capoeira got Mestre Leopoldina ‘out of marginality into society.’

Mestre Leopoldina trained six years with Mestre Artur Emidio.

Mestre Leopoldina is resting in a very special place we all know because he were a very special kid, man, malandro, friend, son, father, brother and Mestre.

‘Onde quer que o Senhor esteja Mestre Leopoldina, a Capoeira e nós seus verdadeiros e nobres amigos sempre estaremos juntos’

Mestre Val Boa Morte

Ganga Zumbí
Mestre Leopoldinha

Alguém me disse
Que pareço Ganga Zumbí
Foi o Rei lá dos Palmares
Outros já me disseram
Que na outra encarnação
Eu era rico, muito rico
Que eu tinha muitas fazendas
E grande canavial
E eu era um bom patrão
Só mulher eu tinha nove
só mulher eu tinha nove
Com idade variada
Mais agora, o que eu tenho?
Nem sequer tenho casa pra morar
e nem dinheiro pra gastar
Mas tenho a Graça Divina
Que é a minha companheira
E esta grande amizade
Dentro do meu coração, camarada…Iê Galo Cantou…
Someone told me
I look like Ganga Zumbí
He was the king in Palmares
Others already told me
That in another incarnation
I was rich, very rich
I had a lot of farms
And a big sugar cane plantation
I was a good boss
Just women I had nineJust women I had nine
Of different ages
But now what do I have?
Not even a house to live in
Nor money to spend
But I have the divine grace
Which is my companionAnd that great friendship
Deep in my heart, comrade


Mestre of the Month

Mestre Paulo dos Anjos

‘José Paulo dos Anjos’

August 15, 1936 – March 26, 1999


Few of today’s Capoeira practitioners stick so close to the art’s traditions and originality as José Paulo dos Anjos.

Mestre Paulo dos Anjos was known as one of the most skilled and versatile Angoleiros of the century. He strongly resisted the attempts to incorporate the changes and fads of modern Capoeira into the traditional art. “For me, nothing has changed. I continue practicing Capoeira Angola according to tradition,” he used to say.
Mestre Paulo was born on August 15th, 1936 in the town of Instance in Sergipe. He moved to Bahia and started work young as a result of the early death of his father. Being the eldest of his brothers, he assumed the responsibility of helping to raise them with his mother. At 14 years old, Mestre Paulo made a name for himself in Salvador as a promising boxer. Later he met Master Canjiquinha, who introduced him to Capoeira. The young Paulo began to frequent the rodas of the Bahian cities, including the rodas of Mestre Pastinha’s academy. In street festivals, his technique and abilities began to attract everyone’s attention. From then on, time would transform him into a master, graduated by Mestre Canjiquinha himself. He also spent time with Mestre Gato Preto, teaching with him in Bahia and also in São Paulo.

With his own style of singing the Capoeira Angola songs, Mestre Paulo dos Anjos was venerated by all. He seemed to have an “orchestra” in his throat. He became widely respected in the Capoeira world and recorded some songs on a CD combining his unique style with the musical tradition of Capoeira. Alongside Mestre Gato Preto, he gave classes on Itaparica Island as well as other places in the metropolitan region of Salvador. His unique way of playing Capoeira helped keep alive the wit of his master and was enjoyed by all other masters alike.

In the 1970s, preoccupied with the direction of Capoeira Angola, Mestre Paulo dos Anjos decided to go to Sao Paulo in order to transmit the teachings of his master. He moved there for five years and in São José dos Campos, he formed the group Anjos de Angola (Angels of Angola). In 1978 he won the Capoeira championship at the Pacaembu Gymnasium in the state capital. However, Mestre Paulo found that he was very little understood in Sao Paulo, making it difficult to keep alive the Capoeira Angola tradition.

 Thus, he returned to Salvador in 1980 and influenced the movement of capoeiristas fighting for better working conditions. Upon his return, he also gathered his followers and told them of the wise decision that from now on he would work with underprivileged children, using Capoeira as a vehicle against ignorance and indifference. Indeed, Mestre Paulo was among the first to believe that through Capoeira, it would be possible to train people to learn critical and creative thinking, interacting positively with the world in which they live.

In 1987, he led the Brazilian Capoeira Angola Association and combined his Capoeira work with his activities as a civil servant in Salvador’s town hall. Many of his students have now become Masters and Professors with their own academies around the world. Past students are Virgílio do Retiro, Jaime de Mar Grande, Jorge Satélite, Pássaro Preto, Amâncio, Neguinho, Renê, Alfredo, Djalma, Galego, Mala, Josias, Cabeção, Jequié, Feijão, Vital, and Al Capone, among others.

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Mestre Paulo dos Anjos passed away on March 26, 1999 in Salvador, the victim of an infection contracted after a surgery in a local hospital. His death represents the loss of not only a very distinguished human being, but also an irreparable loss for Capoeira, especially the lineage of Capoeira Angola.

Mestre Val Boa Morte

Assisted By Elisa Osegueda ‘Passarinha’ 

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