Capoeira history is an interesting but difficult subject because exists many myths, facts and controversies which I suggest are best discussed with historians.
Below I tell how I see it in simple terms but if you want to form your own opinion I strongly suggest searching online and reading some of the books, articles, and films that have been made on the subject. Using the internet try searching Fredérico José de Abreu or just Fred Abreu Capoeira as he has written many interesting books (sadly he died) – I particularly like “O barracão do Mestre Waldemar” which implies that Mestre Waldemar was as famous in his time as Master Bimba and Pastinha. Also, check out – Jair Moura – online, if you’re interested in Capoeira history these guys spent or spend their whole lives researching the subject and have written and made interviews for us to refer to. Another historian that works in the UK is Matthias Assunção. He wrote a book called “The History of Capoeira” and other articles, DVD’s and also practices capoeira himself, he is a wealth of knowledge. Matthias is responsible for my interest in Rumba (unbeknown to him) as he said that other places that had fighting rituals might have disappeared or in the case of Rumba developed into a different type of game!
Personally I feel, after reading a few books and doing my own research, that Capoeira, as we play today with berimbau, pandeiro, song, ritual, is not quite as old as we might have been lead to believe. It also seems to always point back to the Recôncavo Baiano, which explains a few things when you consider the life of the Saveiros. It’s suggested that when waiting for the tide, to unload and load the boat, the men played berimbau, pandeiro and sang – in my mind, this would help explain why capoeira was almost exclusively a male-dominated pastime – Rumba Columbia – seems to have emerged in the same way only in a different land. Modern-day or contemporary capoeira really developed out of Bahia and would have seemed to have now come home!
Matthias’s capoeirahistory.com at first glance seems to be showing how, more recently, based on things learnt in Bahia capoeira developed in Rio-De-Janeiro and other states in the south of Brazil. Capoeira is transmitted orally and every time I meet people from any style of Capoeira I confirm or reconfirm something or develop in some way. All aspects of Capoeira are interesting to me and I’m always open to learning more.