Berimbau The berimbau (bee-rim-bau) is a single string percussion instrument, described as a musical bow with African origins. It is the main instrument used to produce the complex rhythms in Brazilian music that accompanies capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. The berimbau consists of a flexible wooden bow called the biriba or verga, a steel string called the arame, and a gourd called cabaça. The berimbau is played with the help of a small, thin stick called the baqueta or vareta, a metal or stone disk called dobrao or pedra, and a caxixi (shaker).

The berimbau is difficult to play. It consists of a wooden bow made from a Brazilian hardwood, with a round gourd-like resonator at the bottom. The player uses a small coin or stone which helps position the bow, which then is struck by a wooden stick which has a small shaker on it. The sound has a distinct twang.

The berimbau is used in candomblé ceremonies, as well as the martial arts dance known as capoeira, which goes back to slavery days and the quilombo (fugitive commune of escaped slaves as well as other disenfranchised groups—mulattos, native Amazonians, poor whites and even Portuguese soldiers escaping military service) in Palmares in the 17th century. I would suggest that break dancing, as well as ju-jitsu, have borrowed elements from this amazing dance.