Brady Walsh and Ben Carbeau: “Berimbau”

Brady Walsh (Builder), Ben Carbeau (Builder)

For our final project, we made a Berimbau. The Berimbau is a Brazilian bow instrument that is often used in Capoeira, which is a material arts and dance fusion. Berimbaus consists of five major elements: (i) The Verga, which is a thin piece of wood that is bent slightly and tied at both ends with a string. (ii) The Arame, which is the string that is tied to the Verga and keeps it bent. The tension on the Arame, that is created by the bent Verga, is what allows a sound to be produced when it is hit. (iii) The Baqueta, which is a smaller stick that is used to strike the Arame. Arames can be made out of many materials, but are often made out of wood. (iv) The Dobrao, which is a small tool, often a stone, that can be placed on the Arame to create a new point of tension and make different notes. (v) The Cabasa, which is a half-sphere shaped object tied to the back of the Verga  that allows for sounds to travel out from the Berimbau.

The process of creating a Berimbau started by researching the components of the instrument. After we had a sense of what pieces we needed to recreate, we began to source the necessary materials. For the Verga, we purchased a thin piece of pine wood from Home Depot. The Arame material was a 6ft piece of thin metal wire, which was also purchased at Home Depot. Cabasa’s are traditionally made of hollowed out gourds, but the best available half-sphere object was a red cup. For our Dobrao we used a bottle cap, and our Baqueta was a metal fork. We made the decision to use a metal fork, instead of a wooden stick, because the metal on metal contact of the fork and wire produced the loudest noise.

The process of assembling was fairly simple in nature, but challenging to complete. We had to bend the Verga to the right degree where it could create tension on the Arame, but not snap the wood. We then had to keep the Verga bent while we tied on the metal wire for the Arame. This was the most challenging step. Finally we had to thread string through our cup and tie it to the Verga, which was tedious but not overly complicated.

Once our Berimbau was assembled, we watched a few youtube videos on how to play the instrument, and then began experimenting ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the creative thinking that the assembling process sparked us to do – and additionally we really enjoyed playing around with the instrument and creating different pitches with it.