Bira Almeida

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Mestre Acordeon teaching at the Capoeira Arts Cafe in Berkeley, California in the spring of 2005

Ubirajara (Bira) Guimarães Almeida (born 1943), better known as Mestre Acordeon, is a native of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and a master (pt.: mestre) of the Brazilian folk art Capoeira. His international reputation as a teacher, performer, musician, organizer, and author is built upon fifty years of active practice, as well as research into the origins, traditions, political connotations, and contemporary trends of Capoeira. Mestre Acordeon has traveled extensively to promote Capoeira outside Brazil.[1][2]

Acordeon was a student of the legendary Mestre Bimba in the late 1950s, and began teaching Capoeira himself in the early 1960s. In 1966, he founded the Grupo Folclorico da Bahia that performed the show Vem Camará: Histórias de Capoeira in the Teatro Jovem in Rio de Janeiro. The show presented an approach to Capoeira that influenced a new generation of young capoeiristas and affirmed the concept of grupo de Capoeira and today’s capoeira regional. He won three Brazilian Capoeira National Championships in the 1970s.

At the end of 1978 Mestre Acordeon came to the United States and soon introduced Capoeira to the West Coast. 1979 became a turning point in the global growth trajectory of Capoeira. Since then, and for the past four decades Mestre Acordeon has been the guiding light to a generation of Capoeira practitioners who followed him north to make a good living abroad through their art.

Mestre Acordeon maintains the United Capoeira Association (UCA) with several associated schools. He also has created the Capoeira Arts Foundation in Berkeley, California which sponsors UCA and Projeto Kirimurê, a social program for children in the neighborhood of Itapoã in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.

Acordeon has recorded 9 CDs, produced 3 DVDs, and is the author of magazine articles and books about Capoeira, including Agua de Beber, Camará: A bate Papo de Capoeira,[3] and the Capoeira Arts Café: An Academia de Capoeira.[4] His book Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form,[1] was the first Capoeira book in English. He has received honors in support of his practice, teaching, and research of Capoeira. Among them, in the Fall of 1994, he became the first "artist" to receive the Tinker Visiting Professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[5] In 2008, in recognition of his thirty years of continuous work on the West Coast, the City of Berkeley proclaimed October 18 as Mestre Acordeon Day.[6]

Mestre Acordeon's most recent endeavor was reminiscent in its audacity of his original journey to bring Capoeira to the West Coast of the United States nearly forty years ago. On Labor Day 2013 he and nine of his disciples embarked on a 14,000 miles bicycle journey from Berkeley to his home town of Salvador de Bahia in Brazil. Wikipedia should at this point mention that Mestre Acordeon was 70 years old at the time of departure. His wife, Suellen Einarsen, first female Capoeira Master in the USA, also came along for the joyride. Their purpose was to raise funds and awareness for Projeto Kirimurê via making a documentary and a music CD about Capoeira's development in the Americas and about the year long journey. They also wanted to have an epic adventure. At www.b2bjogacapoeira.com you can find a trailer[7] of the so far completed work.

As before his adventure riding his bicycle across deserts, past volcanoes, and through the Amazon, Mestre Acordeon still spends much of his time traveling the world to teach Capoeira. Each year thousands of students in Europe, Asia, South & North America and even Australia travel long distances to get a chance to learn from this grand old master of a martial art that dates back hundreds of years. His wisdom and skill around Capoeira history and music are particularly sought after. Mestre Acordeon remains a hugely important living treasure of the community.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Almeida, Bira Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, 2nd Ed. North Atlantic Books, 1993.
  2. ^ Lewis, John Lowell. Ring of Liberation: Deceptive discourse in Brazilian Capoeira, The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL. 1992
  3. ^ Almeida, Bira. Agua de Beber, Camará: A bate Papo de Capoeira. Vanity Press. 1999. (Portuguese)
  4. ^ Capoeira Arts Café: An Academia de Capoeira. Almeida, Bira. Vanity Press. 2008.
  5. ^ Blocker, Susan. "Dancers learn 'dialogue' from a master." Wisconsin State Journal. October 7, 1994.
  6. ^ Miao, Daisy. "Berkeley festival to celebrate Capoeira master". Oakland Tribune. Oct 12, 2008
  7. ^ Almeida, Ubirajara (2014). "Two Flats and One Berimbau, Documentary Trailer".