The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming
Aesthetics, Transmission, Bonding, and Creativity
An investigation of one of the most sophisticated, intriguing, and elusive of the world’s drumming traditions
An iconic symbol and sound of the Lucumí/Santería 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 Lucumí performance.
Integral in enabling trance possessions by the orisha, by far the most dramatic expressions of Lucumí 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.
Schweitzer's work is the result of excellent ethnography and analysis. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Afro-diasporic musics in Latin America.- Nolan Warden, Latin American Music Review
"This book is a must-read for anyone interested in not only Afro-Cuban drumming in particular, but Afro-Cuban culture in general. It takes us fully inside the world of batá drumming and is as thorough a study as has ever been published on one of the most important musical styles of the New World. It provides us with all the components of a deep understanding of this profound tradition--historical background, cultural context, personal biographies and descriptions, and exhaustive musical transcriptions and analyses. As such, it will stand as a seminal contribution to both our understanding of the musical genre itself and to our larger awareness of Afro-Cuban culture and music. Bravo to Professor Schweitzer!"
--Michael Spiro, associate professor of music at Indiana University and renowned musician, is an Omo Obatalá and an Olu Batá.- UPM