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Batá Drumming in our Modern Popular Music.

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Bat� Drumming in our Modern Popular Music I refused to believe it! How did I end up living in a place where people don't know what I mean when I say that "what hasn't rained is still in the clouds" or "that they fly, they fly"? They have no idea what platanitos en almibar, carambola, or serenata is. More over, they've never heard of El Gran Combo, Roberto Rohena, Los Mu�equitos de Matanzas, Willie Col�n, Maelo, or Lavoe. And they can't play clave to save their lives. When I first came to the United States, I was, to say the least, shaken. The cultural experience is extremely different in the United States when compared to places like Cuba and Puerto Rico. Even though the United States and the Caribbean Islands had a large population of slaves coming from the same general area in West Africa, the cultural/musical impact that these slaves had on the United States seems to be less than they had in the Caribbean. A very significant cultural contribution that slaves made to the Caribbean islands was in the way of religion. The so-called, "primitive" religions of the Yoruba, the Lukum�, If�, and Santer�a among others have played a major role in influencing the Caribbean culture, and more importantly for our discussion, Caribbean music. The traditional Santer�a music has played a major role in delineating popular, modern music and culture in some Caribbean islands like Cuba and Puerto Rico and is still very prevalent and strong in the popular culture. ...read more.


Nowadays, Bat� drumming is beginning to be heard in more some mainstream music of the United States. (Summers, B. 1992) By the time that Congo Square came along, percussionists were an established institution in the Caribbean to the point where the percussionists were frequently the bandleaders. This idea has been prevalent throughout history in the Caribbean. Some of the greatest bandleaders in the history of Latin music have been percussionist; Rafael Cortijo, Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente, and Roberto Rohena all hit the skins. Catholicism has its liturgies and hymns, Baptists have gospel and Rastafarians have reggae. In all these faiths music serves as an instrument to empower its followers and the history and accounts pertaining to the religion. In Santer�a, music plays an even bigger role as it serves as a tool humans use to communicate with the orishas. Whether it is by playing the sacred bat� drums, by dancing or by singing the cantos, participation is the quintessential way to be part of and interact with the spiritual beliefs of Santer�a. The religious ceremonies in Santer�a are called Tambor, bembe, or guemilere. These ceremonies are essentially pseudo-structured parties in honor of a particular deity; they include the initiation of a person into Santer�a, celebrating an orisha's anniversary, or even as an act of gratitude to an orisha for a favor he or she did for a santero. ...read more.


It seems that the more modern the music is and the more electric instruments it uses, the harder it is to trace back to the Afro-Cuban/Bat� drumming roots; some of the allegations I've made here about groups being influenced by bat� rhythms might seem far-fetched to some, but it is essential to be open minded and sensitive to the subtleties that the music carries with it. As we can see, sometimes it may seem like this religious drumming style is not a strong influence in popular music, but in reality, it is everywhere. It is in Matazas in a Friday night bemb� and it is in a studio in the United States for a major recording label. The complexities and to a certain point the magical quality that the rhythms evoke continue to spark the interests of musicians around the globe whether they are involved with Santer�a or not. It is also interesting to examine how engrained into the Caribbean culture these practices are that even when a musician might not necessarily be trying to create music associated with Santer�a, one can hear the prevalent influences that these toques, cantos and rhythms have had. To end I would like to quote Gonzalez-Wippler when describing the spirit of the bat�s: ...Every drum that came from Africa, not just the bat�a, carried inside it a kola nut that was believed to be the soul of the drum. For that reason each drum was believed to be alive, speaking with a voice all its own... ...read more.

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