Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Steven F. Butterman

Second Committee Member

Deborah Schwartz-Kates

Third Committee Member

B. Christine Arce

Fourth Committee Member

Raul Murciano, Jr.


Musical instruments, many of them in the percussion family, are among the cultural goods brought across the Black Atlantic during the periods of colonization. As New World cultures and traditions developed, these instruments developed their own identities and stories within these new social contexts. This study seeks to show how several key factors surrounding the berimbau—a Brazilian musical bow of African origin and modest beginnings—situated it as a global musical and cultural phenomenon. It also establishes a need to reframe the berimbau`s codification in music as an instrument of creativity and virtuosity, and a need to reframe its representation as a spiritual symbol, a tactile embodiment of a resistance movement, and a global commodity of Afro-Brazilian blackness. Finally, this study suggests the berimbau’s story as a framework for Afro-diasporic percussion instruments as symbols/commodities that applies to other instruments of African origin (the conga, atabaque, batá, pandeiro, marimba, etc.).


berimbau; music; brazil; capoeira; percussion; instrument