Batá drum

A Batá drum is a double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass with one cone larger than the other. The percussion instrument is used primarily for the use of religious or semi-religious purposes for the native culture from the land of Yoruba, located in Nigeria, as well as by worshippers of Santería in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and in the United States.

History

Several different types of drums have existed throughout the world. Occasionally, natives from cultures which the drums originate, as in the case of the Yorùbá, used the drums for religious ceremonies and, since their introduction in Cuba in the 1820s, have come to be an understood and important part of the perceived culture of the southwestern Nigerian people.

The drum dates back roughly 500 years, and is believed to have been introduced by Yoruba king, Shangó. Despite the previous long history, awareness of the instrument didn't spread until the 1800s slave-trade in which close to 300,000 Yorùbá natives were brought to Cuba. The religion and beliefs the Yorùbá brought with them eventually became the basis for what is known as Lukumí (or Santería in Cuban). This religion spawned the creation of the first 'sacred' Batá in Cuba around 1830 by a Yorùbá named Añabi.

The Batá slowly became inducted into the Cuban culture after a time, and began to take on more secular uses: they were first publicly performed in 1935 in a broadcast over Cuban radio for purposes of folklore music. Uses such as this have grown as knowledge of the instrument has spread; more and more musicians not currently practicing Lukumí have used versions of the drums in recordings or performances. These 'non-sacred' Batá drums are called aberínkula--profane Batá (see Sacred-profane dichotomy). Batá drums and rhythms have started to be used in other genres, most notably in Cuban timba, jazz and hip hop. In the 1970s, for instance, a mixture of Batá drums and Big Band called Son-Batá or Batá Rock became popular, a genre highly influenced by Los Irakere.

Skilled secular musicians made appearances in the United States throughout the twentieth century; the likes of Julito Collazo and Francisco Aguabella helped the spreading of such 'mainstream' uses in the context of Latin music.

The Lukumí and the Batá

The drums are played simultaneously (often with a rattle or "atchere") to create polyrhythmic compositions, or "toques" during santería ceremonies. A ceremony with batá drums is generally known as a "toque," "tambor de santo," or "bembé," but ceremonies can also be accompanied by shaken gourd-rattle "chékere" ensembles (usually with tumbadora or "conga" drums). There are estimated to be at least 140 different toques for the spirits (saints), or santos and their different manifestations. There are two important "rhythmical suites" that use the sacred bata drums. The first is called the "Oru del Igbodu", (a Liturgical set of rhythms), also referred to as "Oru Seco", (sequence of rhythms without vocals), played usually at the beginning of a "tambor de santo" which includes 23 standard rhythms for all the orichas. The second "suite' includes a singer (akpwon) who engages the ceremony attendants in a call and response style, within them. A final ritual then takes place; an initiate, one who is granted through Añá the ability to play the Batá perfectly, plays the new set, and then is introduced to the old set. This is said to 'transfer' the spirit, or Añá, of the drums from the old set into the new.

There are certain rules and rituals governing the construction, handling, playing, and care of the sacred batá: Only non-castrated male deer's or goat's hides may be used--female goats along with bulls, cows, and sheep are not to be used; only an initiate may touch or play the batá, as only they have gone through the ritual of 'receiving Añá' which grants them the forces necessary to play them properly; before a ceremony the drummers would wash themselves in omiero, a cleansing water, pray, and abstain from sex for a period of time. In Havana, the batá are not played after sundown, while in Matanzas, ceremonies often begin at night.

Those who practice Lukumí believe that certain sacred rhythms performed on the Batá contain a level of spiritual force necessary to allow the accompanying music to summon Orishas, who in turn inhabit or possess one or more of the followers gathered. The Orishas are believed to be those responsible for the control over all natural forces.

The primary purpose of the batá, however, is the glorification of the deified Changó, spirit of thunder and lightning.

Parts of the Batá

In Cuba, the batá consists of a set of three tapered cylinders of various sizes. Iyá, the largest, is referred to as 'mother drum'. Itótele, the middle one, and Okónkolo, the smallest, are called 'father' and 'baby', respectively. In Nigeria, there are five sizes of batá, which can be played either by hand, or using a leather play strap. In Matanzas the older Bata lineages also play with one hand and the sole of a shoe or other improvised strap. In Cuba it is common to see the drums decorated with small bells and chimes, they are called Saworoide & Saworo in Yorubaland and Chaworoide & Chaworo in Cuba. The system of playing the drums is similar but the rhythms differ, it is my opinion that the rhythms played and the "conversation" in Yoruba land is much more complex, as it should be considering the players command of the Yoruba language.

The larger part of the head is called the "enu", while the smaller head is the "chacha". Also before the cuba used to play the bata drums then brought over to africa to have to play

And cuba had the drums and then brought them over to the cuba then to africa to play on and thy did a lot of dacneing with the drums for speical events in africa. The western got the idea of the bata drums from cuba and they play and dance for a speical events they reallly have in western afrrica. And the music of the bata drums are still played after 500 years ago. They played them while the africans were slaves and 500 years ago they still have the music

References

*Mason, John (1992) "Orin Orisa: Songs for Selected Heads." Brooklyn, NY: Yoruba Theological Archministry

*Amira, John & Cornelius, Steven (Re-Issued 1999) "The Music Of Santería: Traditional Rhythms Of The Batá Drums: The Oru Del Igbodu" White Cliffs Media

*Ajayi, Omofolabo S. (1998) "Yoruba Dance: The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a Nigerian Culture" Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press

External links

* [http://www.batadrums.com/ www.batadrums.com]


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