Mestre Acordeon B2B talk at SOAS

Mestre Acordeon B2B talk at SOAS – 09 April 2015

I started following (domain is parked) Mestre Acordeon’s Berkeley to Bahia journey with great interest back when it first started on Facebook, in 2013 – it combined two – well three – of my favourite activities. No, wait! When I start breaking it up and counting, it combines a LOT of activities I love: Capoeira, travelling, cycling, camping, meeting new people, music, film & photography, sleeping on hammocks, boats, adventure!!!!

I remember thinking I’d kill for an opportunity like that, to go on such a journey, with two Capoeira Mestres: Acordeon and his wife: Suelly. And then people from various countries: Chile, Mexico, Japan, Austria…

Facebook can make life seem shallow and egocentric at times, but then it redeems itself completely! When I saw tonight’s event I joined, unsure of what it was really about, but willing to go and find out anyway. Some friends also wanted to go so we arranged to meet in front of SOAS.

My mother was a PHD student at LSE when we first got here and our first residence in London was at the halls of residence facing Euston Station (read about it in ‘My first year in London‘) – and I did go to SOAS a couple of times, once to a Brazilian party… But that was over 20 years ago and I didn’t have a clue where it was anymore. So using modern technology, i.e. phone/GPS and the coordinates given at the Facebook event, I directed myself and a friend to the wrong location, separately. We both got a bit lost, but found each other at Russel Sq. station. Through a cunning combination of map reading and plain old asking people we found it eventually… We were running about 15 minutes late.

Our friends were there, in the foyer, as was everyone else – Mestre Acordeon has having some technical difficulties of his own, which meant things started 30 minutes late. I had met Mestre Acordeon for the first time a couple of weeks ago when he came to visit our group, as Mestre Poncianinho is a friend of his. Capoeira royalty I tell you, both of them!!!! Although royalty is completely the wrong word for it. They are both legends, one a living legend, and the other is a legend in the making.

The Khalili Lecture Theatre holds 145 people and it was nearly full. Acordeon started talking about not turning your back on people (i.e. us, the audience) and told us how Besouro was killed. Legend has it he was killed by the ticum knife, the only thing that can penetrate a ‘corpo fechado’ (closed body). Besouro was a real person, and he was killed and died in a hospital. These are facts. Then there are many beautiful legends around him, including the one about his closed body. A lot of people tried to kill him and failed, hence the reputation for being invincible. He must have dodged a few bullets and kicked many butts in his day. Last night I learned more details on how he died. Besouro was lured into a trap, under pretence of collecting payment for some work he had done. He went to a certain place to collect it, somewhere in Maracangalha according to many songs. He got told he’d have to stay overnight to wait for the money to arrive – and got cowardly killed while he was sleeping. He was taken to hospital but died on the way.

Then he talked about the journey itself. Acordeon explained how he had this idea, many years ago, for a film about a Capoeira mestre, who supplemented his income by being a bicycle courier. He described the film’s opening scene in vivid detail and how he even once met Copolla, in a restaurant in San Francisco. When he asked the great director if he knew of Capoeira, he replied by saying he had read a book on the subject once. And – isn’t life most surprising at times? – turns out it was Bira’s book that he had read! In the end nothing came of this idea but it really did sound like it had the potential to be a great indie movie. However life eventually conspired to make this B2B journey happen, and so they spent a whole amazing year travelling, and this could potentially make a great documentary. The footage we saw was very good and made me want to watch more.

Mestre Acordeon talking about his B2B journey
Mestre Acordeon talking about his B2B journey

We were shown a few short videos – some of which I had seen – and we went on a inspiring, and sometimes very funny, journey. Acordeon is so affable, funny and intelligent, you could just listen to him for hours. We also got shown some photos. He has to filter down 6000 photos into 125 for a book. What a mammoth of a task! He was also looking for some help – not only financially, but also skills wise: i.e. film making/editing skills so they can make three planned shorts of their trip. Oh, how I wish I knew more than just how to edit kitten videos on Premiere PRO!

He closed it off by splitting the room into three groups, each group singing a different berimbau toque.

A few people wanted a roda – but it was obvious Mestre Acordeon (he been talking non-stop for nearly two hours, and didn’t have a sip of water not even once) wasn’t up for it – he said so. And who could blame him. A few people tried to push it, which I thought was a bit disrespectful. We left the lecture room and heard there was going to be an open roda in another room. We stayed for that for about 30 minutes and I was surprised to see Mestre Acordeon come in, play the atabaque for a bit, talk a bit to praise the work of the organisers and then finally leave. It got me thinking, how intense his life must be. Not just because of his age, he’s 71 now. I just think that, at any age, meeting so many people, talking talking talking. Posing for photo after photo… You’d really have to be an extrovert and feed off the energy from all these people. He’s utterly elegant with it, a natural! He really is adored by everyone – that must be a wonderful feeling! But I really could understand how he might have just wanted to go and have a rest after the talk, and still he made the extra effort!

Open roda

Axe Mestre Acordeon!!!!!

Want to help? Projeto Kirimurê – this is a project for helping children in Bahia, lead by Mestre Acordeon – donations welcome!

Berkeley 2 Bahia – donations and skills needed!

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