The Calabash in Capoeira Music

By Nicole Tarnowsky

Jul 5 2019

The Berimbau is the musical instrument played in capoeira. It consists of a wooden bow (verga), a metal wire (arame) which can be a guitar string or sometimes taken from an old tire, and a gourd which resonates the sound (cabaca). The cabaca is made from the fruit of the calabash tree, Crescentia cujete. Depending on the cabaca it is made with, a Berimbau can produce different sounds, viola (highest tone), média (medium tone) and gunga (lowest tone).

The Calabash tree is not actually in the gourd family, it is in the family Bignoniaceae which includes many tropical trees found throughout the world. The hard outer shell of the calabash fruit is used in many parts of the world to make bowls, cups, and other containers. In Africa, calabash is used to make an instrument similar to the Berimbau. Though capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, it is thought that the Berimbau is likely African in origin.

A Closer Look