The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming
Aesthetics, Transmission, Bonding, and Creativity
Publication Year: 2013
An iconic symbol and sound of the Lucum'/Santer'a religion, Afro-Cuban batá are talking drums that express the epic mythological narratives of the West African Yoruba deities known as orisha. By imitating aspects of speech and song, and by metaphorically referencing salient attributes of the deities, batá drummers facilitate the communal praising of orisha in a music ritual known as a toque de santo.
In The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming, Kenneth Schweitzer blends musical transcription, musical analysis, interviews, ethnographic descriptions, and observations from his own experience as a ritual drummer to highlight the complex variables at work during a live Lucum' performance.
Integral in enabling trance possessions by the orisha, by far the most dramatic expressions of Lucum' faith, batá drummers are also entrusted with controlling the overall ebb and flow of the four- to six-hour toque de santo. During these events, batá drummers combine their knowledge of ritual with an extensive repertoire of rhythms and songs. Musicians focus on the many thematic acts that unfold both concurrently and in quick succession. In addition to creating an emotionally charged environment, playing salute rhythms for the orisha, and supporting the playful song competitions that erupt between singers, batá drummers are equally dedicated to nurturing their own drumming community by creating a variety of opportunities for the musicians to grow artistically and creatively.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication
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T.schere are m.scany, m.scany w.sconderfu.scl people w.scho have su.scpported and guided me through this project. I express my deepest gratitude to my family, teachers, colleagues, and friends for their words of encouragement, un-questioning faith in my abilities, and patience through what seemed like an I am deeply appreciative of the faculty and provost of Washington College ...
A Note on Typography and Word Usage
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T.schis w.scork u.scses w.scords and phrases from.sc three foreig.scn lan-guages: Spanish, Lucumí, and, to a limited extent, Yorùbá. Throughout the text these words, upon their f_irst appearance, appear in italics and are ac-companied with a def_inition. Written Lucumí can be best described as an Hispanicized version of Yorùbá. While diacritical marks on Yorùbá words in-...
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Afro-C.scu.scb.scan b.scataacute.sc [b.scagrave.sctaacute.sc, b.scata] dru.scm.scm.scing.sc is am.scong.sc the m.scost so-phisticated, intriguing, and elusive of the world’s drumming traditions. An iconic symbol of the Lucumí/Santería religion,1 the batá are talking drums that explore epic mythological narratives of the West African Yorùbá deities known as orisha [oricha, ocha, òrìs.à, òòs.à, santo, orixá, oxa]. By imitating as-...
1. The Lucumí Religion and Its Music
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I.scn the first half of the nineteenth centu.scry, a b.scoom.scing.sc su.scg.scar economy in Cuba was spurred by a void in the global market lef_t by the Haitian revolution (1seven.oldstylenine.oldstyle1–1eight.oldstyle0four.oldstyle). This boom led, in part, to a voracious appe-tite for African slave labor to work on Cuba’s many plantations. Despite both a growing international abolitionist movement and aggressive ef_forts by the ...
2. Omo Añá: The Fraternity of Batá Drummers
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F.scorced to m.scig.scrate to C.scu.scb.sca in the early nineteenth centu.scry as a by-product of the transatlantic slave trade, members of the Yorùbá Àyàn cult struggled to preserve their practices and beliefs in the face of a variety of cultural pressures. Among many others, these pressures included ef_forts from the Spanish government and Catholic religious leaders to repress African cul-...
3. Overview of the Batá Repertoire
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T.sche b.scataacute.sc repertoire consists prim.scarily of m.scu.sclti-sectional com.sc-positions called toques. Within any given section of a toque, drummers are permitted a range of variations, usually referred to as “conversations.” By mak-ing a change in his drumming pattern, the iyá (the lead drum) drummer in-dicates that at least one of the other two drummers (the itótele and okónko-...
4. Learning the Basics: Experiential Learning
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W.schile in m.scany m.scu.scsic traditions the act of perform.scing.sc and the act of teaching are distinct, in batá drumming they occur simultaneously. The mechanisms that permit batá drummers to play alongside one another for up-wards of f_ive hours and provide a successful drumming for the orishas and the community without rehearsal are the same mechanisms that help iyá players ...
5. Pancho Quinto: Rumbero and Batalero
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B.scataacute.sc dru.scm.scm.scing.sc, like m.scany of the w.scorld’s other g.screat m.scu.scsical traditions, exists within a tremendous paradox. On one hand, batá drumming is a complex musical form, requiring years of diligent and devoted study with a competent master. During apprenticeship one hopes to absorb much of their master’s technique, style, and aesthetic. On the other hand, each musician is ...
6. Traditional Ñongo: Musical Analysis
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W.schile the ritu.scal repertoire of b.scataacute.sc dru.scm.scm.scing.sc can b.sce adm.scired for its expansiveness, it is equally important to appreciate the depth of the rep-ertoire that is ref_lected in the unique performances of each toque. This chapter of_fers an in-depth exploration of a single batá toque, the “traditional” ñongo.1 Ñongo is a deceptively simple, four-beat repeating pattern that is interrupted ...
7. Modern Ñongo: The Evolution of a Toque
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Mu.scsical g.scenres are in a constant state of evolu.sction. I.scn the world of batá drumming, the rate of change is not uniform across the entire repertoire. While some toques easily absorb progressive inf_luences, others re-sist change. As discussed in the previous chapter, the rules that guide conversa-tions in ñongo, in particular, are f_lexible enough to allow substantial variety ...
Appendix 1: Transcriptions of Ñongo Excerpts
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Appendix 2: Musical Examples Available on Website
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 13 b&w photographs, 72 musical examples, 3 line illustrations
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Caribbean Studies Series