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FOLLOWING THE TRAIL OF THE SNAKE: A LIFE HISTORY OF COBRA MANSA "COBRINHA" MESTRE OF CAPOEIRA
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This dissertation is a cultural biography of Mestre Cobra Mansa, a mestre of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira angola. The intention of this work is to track Mestre Cobrinha's life history and accomplishments from his beginning as an impoverished child in Rio to becoming a mestre of the tradition-its movements, music, history, ritual and philosophy. A highly skilled performer and researcher, he has become a cultural ambassador of the tradition in Brazil and abroad. Following the Trail of the Snake is an interdisciplinary work that integrates the research methods of ethnomusicology (oral history, interview, participant observation, musical and performance analysis and transcription) with a revised life history methodology to uncover the multiple cultures that inform the life of a mestre of capoeira. A reflexive auto-ethnography of the author opens a dialog between the experiences and developmental steps of both research partners' lives. Written in the intersection of ethnomusicology, studies of capoeira, social studies and music education, the academic dissertation format is performed as a roda of capoeira aiming to be respectful of the original context of performance. The result is a provocative ethnographic narrative that includes visual texts from the performative aspects of the tradition (music and movement), aural transcriptions of Mestre Cobra Mansa's storytelling and a myriad of writing techniques to accompany the reader in a multi-dimensional journey of multicultural understanding. The study follows Cinezio Feliciano Pe anha in his childhood struggle for survival as a street performer in Rio de Janeiro. Several key moves provided him with the opportunity to rebuild his life and to grow into a recognized mestre of the capoeira angola martial art as Mestre Cobra Mansa ("Tame Snake" in Portuguese). His dedicated work enabled him to contribute to the revival of the capoeira angola tradition during the 1980's in Bahia. After his move to the United States in the early 1990's, Mestre Cobrinha founded the International Capoeira Angola Foundation, which today has expanded to 28 groups around the world. Mestre Cobra returned home to Brazil to initiate projects that seek to develop a new sense of community from all that he has learned and been able to accomplish in his life through the performance and study of capoeira angola.