Carlos Aldama's Life in Batá
Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum
Publication Year: 2012
Batá identifies both the two-headed, hourglass-shaped drum of the Yoruba people and the culture and style of drumming, singing, and dancing associated with it. This book recounts the life story of Carlos Aldama, one of the masters of the batá drum, and through that story traces the history of batá culture as it traveled from Africa to Cuba and then to the United States. For the enslaved Yoruba, batá rhythms helped sustain the religious and cultural practices of a people that had been torn from its roots. Aldama, as guardian of Afro-Cuban music and as a Santería priest, maintains the link with this tradition forged through his mentor Jesus Pérez (Oba Ilu), who was himself the connection to the preserved oral heritage of the older generation. By sharing his stories, Aldama and his student Umi Vaughan bring to light the techniques and principles of batá in all its aspects and document the tensions of maintaining a tradition between generations and worlds, old and new. The book includes rare photographs and access to downloadable audio tracks.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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In his introduction to Carlos Aldama’s Life in Batá: Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum, Professor Umi Vaughan reminds us of what every percussionist, possessed by the spirit of the drum, must do – eat, drink, sleep, and dream drums...
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Carlos Aldama would like to thank his mother and father, Jesús Pérez, and all of his old teachers. Thanks to Santa Torriente and Librada Quesada Mozorra. Thanks to his children: Maida, Dalia, Iliana, and Michel. Thanks to all of his godchildren...
Note on Transliteration
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The reader will find here many words from the Lucumí language spoken in Cuba. It derives mostly from Yoruba, which is a tonal language spoken in the southwestern part of modern-day Nigeria. In Yoruba, tone or pitch is used to distinguish...
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Introduction: The Drum Speaks
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Moforibale. I put my head to the floor in respect. I salute Changó by the altar, at the feet of Carlos Aldama (Oba Kwelu). Candles, coconut, and rum as an offering, to begin. “What do you want to learn? Do you want to learn to play a few rhythms for dance classes...
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Batá drumming is used to support Afro-Cuban Santería. Santería is a “danced religion” based on Yoruba religious concepts disguised under and influenced by Catholic ideology and symbols. The foundation of Santería was established...
2. Learning My Trade
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The important Lucumí institution of the sacred batá drums, with its specialized bodies of technical, herbal, and musical knowledge, and its guilds of drummers “sworn” (jurado) to the drum spirit, Añá, did not arrive in Cuba as an intact...
3. Batá in the Revolution
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In 1959, Cuba began to reinvent itself under the direction of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary socialist government. Historically in Cuba, poor people – especially Afro-Cubans – were marginalized. Now after centuries of colonial...
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Diaspora entails continuity and change, harmony and dissonance, familiarity and foreignness. When I think of my study with Carlos I am inspired by the possibility of reaching back into my own ancestral past through the...
5. Drum Lesson
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I have always been around drums. But I was always more of a dancer. I have always loved languages, of which music is perhaps the most beautiful. But language and dance, although related to the batá, don’t make you a drummer...
6. The Future, What Comes Next?
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From Havana, the batá tradition has spread around the world, especially to Puerto Rico, Miami, New York, and California. Scholars discuss the important contributions of key drummers from Cuba who established batá drumming...
Conclusion: The Drum Speaks Again
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We began this book with the understanding that the batá drum is a vessel, a vehicle, and a teaching tool. The drum holds on to various kinds of information, including sonic patterns, stories, family and ritual lineages, herbal medicine...
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Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 23 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012