Type: Chordophones > Bows > Unbraced >
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.111
Region: South America.
Description: The berimbau is a musical bow of African origin. A Brazilian Musical bow of African origin, with a single wire string and sometimes a gourd resonator. The berimbau is the principal accompanying instrument for Bahian capoeira, a stylized martial art of the region.
A richly creolized product of the black world with several prototypes on both sides of the Atlantic, those in Brazil include several related to Kongo/Angolan bows. The most important found during the colonial period were the Luandan hungu and the embulumbumba of south-western Angola, brought as part of the slave trade.
Etymology: Despite its origin, in the north and north-east it takes a Portuguese name, the berimbau or berimbau de barriga [jew’s harp of the belly], while it is called urucungu in the south.
Playing Techniques: The player holds a stick and a small wicker basket rattle, called “caxixi” in Bahia, in his right hand and percusses the string with the stick. In his left hand he holds the berimbau and occasionally applies a metal coin to the string; the coin serves as a bridge, giving a second fundamental pitch perhaps a semi-tone or a whole tone above that produced from the open string.
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