The Berimbau: Musical Instrument Or Icon Of Resistance Against Oppression?

Oct 25, 2019

Credit Jill Steinberg

The berimbau is both a percussion and a string instrument, with origins in Africa, but made popular in Brazil through its association with the martial art of Capoeira. Capoeira was developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century and combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music. In parts of Brazil, the practice would become outlawed, while in other areas, it was allowed because it was disguised as dance. Traditional Capoeira music is provided by a group of various percussion instruments, but the leading instrument is the berimbau, which determines the tempo and style of music that is played.

Gregory Beyer, Director of Percussion Studies at Northern Illinois, discovered the berimbau unexpectedly, twenty years ago, while visiting a drum shop in Manhattan. It was love at first sound and since that time, Beyer has shared his love for the instrument all over the world by forming non-profit organizations in both the United States and Brazil. Known as Projeto Arcomusical and Arcomusical Brasil, respectively, these organizations compose, commission, record, and perform music for berimbau ensemble. Projeto Arcomusical combines elements of composed music with characteristics of traditional Capoeira music.

Projecto Arcomusical will perform in Powell Recital Hall in the Natalie Haslam Music Center on the UTK campus, Monday October 28th at 8pm. More information is available online at or at