Although the berimbau is widely acknowledged today as part of capoeira - in Brazil and around the world - only a 'minimal' history of this instrument exists concerning its evolution over the twentieth century. The sounds, songs and notes of the berimbau, as well as its circulation among capoeiristas, artists, athletes and intellectuals, played an important role in the historical shift from a 'poisonous' capoeira to the 'non-poisonous' styles. The latter were the same styles that became national with enough of a violent edge to maintain the ambivalence between martial art, game and dance, as exemplified and echoed by the capoeira movement between 1930 and 1960. This article approaches the berimbau as an object embodied with a specific kind of agency, useful to the national imagination, to the control of the body and to the promotion of hierarchies among its practitioners.
Berimbau; Agency; Imagined community; Body; Capoeira