This is the second post in a mini series of 3. Today I am going to talk about the study group of Mestre Negoativo. In the first article I reviewed Mestre Nenel’s private berimbau classes. In the next post I’ll talk about the Músicapoeira course by Mestre Ferradura.
Grupo de estudos – Mestre Negoativo
I met Mestre Negoativo for the first time at a local event in the beginning of March 2020, right before the apocalypse. I bought one of his famous berimbaus with the ‘afinação baixa‘ (low tuning) and became interested in his work and research.
Registration and onboarding
Somewhere in May I read on Facebook that Mestre Negoativo was starting an online study group. He was organizing weekly group classes about the berimbau, which sounded very interesting. I didn’t immediately sign up, but after reading several positive comments on Reddit and Facebook and learning he was starting an English group as well, I decided to join.
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Em tempos mudados como os nossos, é preciso que saibamos nos re-inventar e criarmos formas de nos mantermos conectados e ativos, mesmo durante o desafio. Com as ferramentas do nosso tempo podemos mesmo distantes fisicamente, nos mantermos unidos e atuantes. Esse grupo de estudos surge como proposta para manter nosso quilombo avançando. Reconhecendo o grande desafio que é transmitir certos tipos de conhecimento através de plataformas não presenciais, essa jornada de um estudo da Musicalidade Consciente convida a cada um de vocês para praticarmos o estudo contínuo e interior da nossa dimensão musical. A intenção é que nos aproximemos gradativamente em direção a intimidade – com os toques, com o ritmo, com o corpo, com as nuances, com a respiração. As direções básicas de nossos estudos serão: 1 A compreensão das bases fundamentais da musicalidade, percepção delas em nossas vidas, iniciação e prática das propriedades rítmicas, melódicas e harmônicas. 2 A familiarização gradativa e respeitosa com o Arco Musical, o Berimbau de Barriga, será ele nosso companheiro e guia no estudo de uma relação mais íntima com o instrumento. As reuniões ao vivo, no “salão da Lamparina” ocorrerão uma vez por semana na plataforma Zoom, o link será enviado para os integrantes cadastrados. Além do encontro presencial, disponibilizarei uma vez por semana um vídeo conteúdo, no qual compartilharei conteúdos e exercícios para a prática e desenvolvimento da semana. A proposta é de a partir de um retorno as raízes da musicalidade e do contato harmonioso com o instrumento, irmos aprendendo e mantendo acesa a antiga chama de uma musicalidade mais digna. O Grupo de Estudos será centrado àqueles que se cadastrarem enviando um email para > email@example.com A principio, as reuniões ao vivo acontecerão em três turnos distintos. Horário Brasil: Quinta-feira à tarde – 16h; Quinta-feira à noite – 19h; Sexta-feira de manhã – 10h. Ficando a critério dos participantes. Posteriormente os grupos serão definidos de acordo com as necessidades específicas de cada qual. Os valores mensais – ou energia de troca – são 60 reais, 20€ euros ou 20$ dólares USA Aula avulso 30 reais, 12€$
Since places were limited per group, you had to register in time to claim a spot. I received an e-mail in Portuguese and English with the details and instructions on how to join. About a week later, I was all set for the first session. It immediately became clear Mestre Negoativo was his charming and charismatic self, taking away any awkwardness of being in a Zoom with 25 strangers.
Price: Varies per region, but on average €30 per month. It really is a bargain considering the amount of knowledge the Mestre shares.
Language: Portuguese, but an English translator (who does a great job) is present in every class. All communication is bilingual as well.
Communication: Mostly through WhatsApp, but you can e-mail as well. We created a WhatsApp group with everyone from our study group during the first week to share info and questions.
Organization: Classes are held once a week through Zoom on a fixed day and time. If you miss a class, you can ask to join on another day or to receive a recording from the session. Our group finished its run in Novermber after more than 20 sessions in total.
Mestre Negoativo’s internet connection is pretty decent. There’s almost no lag and you can easily follow along. The same goes for the connection of the translator.
Mestre Negoativo is a well organized and structured person and does a great job maintaining the several study groups. He gets help from some friends at Lamparina Cultural Centre as well. In terms of teaching methodology, he hovers between the traditional Brazilian capoeira teacher and a modern teacher. He’s still very much a “watch me do it and repeat it” teacher, but also understands that Americans and Europeans need a clear, structured and step by step approach to learn music. as opposed to South-Americans who learn by “feeling” it. He is a firm believer of a long learning process, where one can’t simply study the notes of a toque and play them but needs time to develop a relationship with the toque.
The mestre developed his own notation system to write berimbau rhythms which are phonetical phrases. He uses digital tools like a metronome app and a tuning app, creates plenty of videos (in HD) and uses modern teaching methods like O Passo which all help in the learning process. He’s a very patient person and gladly takes a few minutes during class to help you out when you’re lost.
Every week you log into the Zoom call, which is open for everyone to talk and chat. Mestre Negoativo makes a habit of greeting everyone personally at the start of each class. Even though he knows tons of people, he’ll remember you name and where you’re from. Then he mostly asks us to play one or more of the berimbau rhythms we have been studying the past weeks. Everyone is muting when they play the berimbau, but he’ll pick out some people to play alone so he can hear you and give feedback.
The sessions don’t have a fixed structure and most often you don’t know the week’s topic beforehand. Most weeks you’ll play a lot of berimbau and learn new (and challenging) variations. Other weeks he changes things up and will focus more on singing, playing the pandeiro, or just talking about all things related to the berimbau and capoeira music in general.
Levels are very mixed, ranging from beginners who can barely play their first toque to people like Mestre Guaxini Do Mar. That being said, Mestre Negoativo makes everyone feel very comfortable and you’ll quickly learn there are no wrong questions. Our group was always very supportive of each other, even if someone kept messing up.
At the end of class, the Mestre sometimes introduces a song or asks if someone wants to sing. Every class lasts about one hour, but we often kept talking for half an hour longer when there was an interesting discussion.
Every week you’ll receive a video, an audio recording or a text to study. Videos are on Youtube (unlisted) and you are not allowed to download or distribute them, obviously. Most of them are about specific berimbau rhythms and variations for you to practice at home. During the last 4-8 weeks, the lesson materials were more limited.
If you have problems understanding a certain pattern or song during class, the Mestre is always happy to make a quick recording and send it to everyone. Also, be sure to bring a notebook to each class, as you’ll get a lot of information to process.
What I liked
I absolutely loved this group because of the social factor. Thanks to being in a relatively small group (about 20 people on average), all speaking the same language and having our own WhatsApp group, it was easy to get to know everyone. We all became friends and everyone helped each other. Knowing your co-students really helped lowering the bar when having to demonstrate a toque or a song in the group.
Mestre Negoativo is absolutely passionate about music and worships the berimbau. It’s very inspiring to hear him talk about the berimbau with so much love. His inspiration are the great masters Waldemar, Gato Preto, Canjiquinha and Traíra. A lot of their knowledge about the berimbau was lost over the years and the rhythms they played were almost forgotten. Mestre Negoativo makes it his mission to keep this knowledge alive by passing everything he knows onto his students.