We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Carlos Aldama's Life in Batá

Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum

Umi Vaughan and Carlos Aldama

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (421.3 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (91.2 KB)
pp. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (99.3 KB)
pp. xi-xiii

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (96.7 KB)
pp. xv-xvi

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...

read more

Note on Transliteration

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.6 KB)
pp. xvii

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...


pdf iconDownload PDF (76.7 KB)
pp. xix-xx

read more

Introduction: The Drum Speaks

pdf iconDownload PDF (196.4 KB)
pp. 1-14

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...

read more

1. Fundamento

pdf iconDownload PDF (208.6 KB)
pp. 15-35

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...

read more

2. Learning My Trade

pdf iconDownload PDF (397.9 KB)
pp. 36-64

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...

read more

3. Batá in the Revolution

pdf iconDownload PDF (490.5 KB)
pp. 65-96

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...

read more

4. Diaspora

pdf iconDownload PDF (285.0 KB)
pp. 97-112

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...

read more

5. Drum Lesson

pdf iconDownload PDF (214.5 KB)
pp. 113-131

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...

read more

6. The Future, What Comes Next?

pdf iconDownload PDF (297.2 KB)
pp. 132-143

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...

read more

Conclusion: The Drum Speaks Again

pdf iconDownload PDF (206.2 KB)
pp. 144-151

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...


pdf iconDownload PDF (123.9 KB)
pp. 153-156


pdf iconDownload PDF (140.6 KB)
pp. 157-162


pdf iconDownload PDF (111.6 KB)
pp. 163-166

Track List

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.0 KB)
pp. 167


pdf iconDownload PDF (164.9 KB)
pp. 169-179

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005670
E-ISBN-10: 0253005671
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253357199

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 23 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012