Advertisement

Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 343–362 | Cite as

Two heads of the same drum? Musical narratives within a transatlantic religion

  • Amanda VillepastourEmail author
Article

Abstract

The Nigerian bàtá is a two-headed talking drum (spelled and pronounced batá in Cuba) and provides an apt metaphor and microcosm for the transatlantic conversations and symbiotic relationships between Nigerian and Cuban religious elites involved in the various sects of orisha religion. This article revises Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1993), challenging his term ‘black music’ and the notion that black Atlantic populations are fundamentally unified by shared memories of slavery. Furthermore, this discussion challenges the privileging of text in transatlantic musical studies and argues for the centralising of purely musical data across academic disciplines.

Keywords

Yoru`bá music bata drums orisha religion slavery black Atlantic 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    For clarity, I use the spelling of the tradition to which I refer at any given moment. Hence, I use the Yorùba spelling bàtá when referring to the Nigerian drum, bata when referring to the Cuban drum and the non-italicised ‘bata’ without diacritical markings to encompass both and all traditions. Likewise, when discussing the spiritual beings within the Nigerian tradition, I use the Yorùba word orisà, but when discussing the transatlantic Cuban tradition, I use the Cuban Lukumí terms, in this case oricha(s). When referring collectively to both and all traditions, I use the non-italicised English spelling, ‘orisha’. Orisà Devotion refers to the Nigerian tradition, Ocha to the Cuban tradition and Orisha Tradition to both and all related traditions.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London: Verso, 1993), 72–110; andGoogle Scholar
  3. 2a.
    John Mason, Orin Òrì.sà: Songs for Selected Heads (New York: Yoruba Theological Archministry, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    For example, see the work of Pierre Verger, Robert Farris Thompson, Lorand Matory Maureen Warner-Lewis - see subsequent references for individual works.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See Mason, Orin Òrìsà; Maureen Warner-Lewis, Yoruba Songs of Trinidad (London: Karnak House, 1994); andGoogle Scholar
  6. 3a.
    Maureen Warner-Lewis, Trinidad Yoruba: From Mother Tongue to Memory (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1989 [1983]).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    For useful introductions to Nigerian Orisà Tradition, see the work of Karen Barber, William Bascom, John Peel, Pierre Verger and Susanne Wenger. For introductions to Cuban Regla de Ocha, see the work of George Brandon, David Brown, Michael Attwood, Mason Joseph Murphy, Stephan Palmié and Robert Farris Thompson. See subsequent references for individual works.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Rev. Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas (Lagos: C.S.S. Bookshops, 1976 [1921]), 15–25; andGoogle Scholar
  10. 7a.
    Bolaji E. Idòwú, Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief (Brooklyn, NY: A & B Book Publishers, 1994 [1962]), 18–29, respectively.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    Robin Horton, ‘Ancient Ife: A Reassessment’, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 9, no. 4 (1979), 69–149.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    John Peel, ‘Gender in Yoruba Religious Change’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 32, no. 2 (2002), 141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 10.
    See Isabel M. Castellanos, ‘The Use of Language in Afro-Cuban Religion’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Georgetown University, 1977, for a detailed description of the many African peoples (and their varying appellations) in Cuba.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Although spiritual entities, the orishas are humanised by orisha devotees and are referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’. The orishas are constituted in material form and ritually placed in vessels - one of which is the bàta drum - by orisha priests.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Darius L. Thieme, ‘A Descriptive Catalogue of Yoruba Musical Instruments’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Washington DC, Catholic University of America, 1969, 183Google Scholar
  16. 12a.
    Michael D. Marcuzzi, ‘A Historical Study of the Ascendant Role of Bàta Drumming in Cuban Or`sà Worship’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Toronto, York University, 2005, 162–177; andGoogle Scholar
  17. 12b.
    Amanda Vincent (Villepastour), ‘Bata Conversations: Guardianship and Entitlement Narratives about the Bata in Nigeria and Cuba’, unpublished doctoral thesis, London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2006, 88–95.Google Scholar
  18. 13.
    For example, see Christopher Waterman, ‘Our Tradition is a Very Modern Tradition: Popular Music and the Construction of Pan-Yoruba Identity’, Ethnomusicology, 34, no. 3 (1990) 367–379; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 13a.
    John Peel, Religious Encounters and the Making of the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 283–288.Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    Peel, idem.Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    For example, see William Bascom, ‘Focus on Cuban Santería’, Southwest Journal of Anthropology, 5, no. 1 (1950), 64–68; ‘The Yoruba in Cuba’ Nigeria, no. 37 (1951), 14–20; and ‘Yoruba Acculturation in Cuba’, Afro-Americains, Memoires de l’Institute Francais d’Afrique Noire, no. 27 (1952), 163–167; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 15a.
    Kólá Abímbólá, Yorùba Culture: A Philosophical Account (Birmingham: Iróko` Academic Publishers, 2006).Google Scholar
  23. 16.
    For example, David Eltis, ‘The Diaspora of Yoruba Speakers, 1650–1865: Dimensions andImplications’, in The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, ed. Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004, 17–39); andGoogle Scholar
  24. 16a.
    Victor Manfredi, ‘Philological Perspectives on the Southeastern Nigerian Diaspora’, Contours, 2, no. 2 (2004), 239–287.Google Scholar
  25. 17.
    Fernando Ortiz, Los instrumentos de la música afrocubana, vol. 4 (Havana: Publicaciones de la Dirección de Cultura del Ministerio de Educación, 1955), 315–321, esp. 315–316 for Anabí/Atandá story.Google Scholar
  26. 18.
    Although, see Marcuzzi, A Historical Study’, 388–421 and Vincent (Villepastour), ‘Bata Conversations’, 123–133, for detailed challenges to Ortiz’s account. With the break-up of family lineages under slavery, ritual lineages took precedence. Babalaos and santeros appropriate ahijados [godchildren] through ritual and are themselves referred to as the padrino [godfather] or madrina [godmother]. Ocha devotees recite a moyuba [homage] which pays respect and spiritually invokes the living or dead priests -padrinos/madrinas -who initiated them, along with the priests who initiated their own padrinos/madrinas, and the priests who initiated them and so forth. Moyuba recitations can reach back several ritual and biological generations. Devotees speak of people who were initiated by the same padrino/madrina as their abures/aburos [siblings]. Devotees frequently self refer as omo oricha [children of orisha].Google Scholar
  27. 19.
    Marcuzzi, A Historical Study’, 145–162.Google Scholar
  28. 20.
    Ortiz, Los instrumentos de la música afrocubana, 316.Google Scholar
  29. 21.
  30. 22.
    Lorand J. Matory, ‘Free to Be a Slave: Slavery as Metaphor in the Afro-Atlantic Religions’, Journal of Religion in Africa, no. 37 (2007), 421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 23.
    Richard and John Lander, The Niger Journal of Richard and John Lander (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965 [1832]), 68. See Marcuzzi, A Historical Study’, 278–284, for a more detailed account of the bàta s military imagery.Google Scholar
  32. 24.
    Peter McKenzie, Hail Orisha! A Phenomenology of a West African Religion in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 77–78; Peel, Religious Encounters, 290–291.Google Scholar
  33. 25.
    Yorùbá `eniyàn ńlá acquire and exercise their status socially, politically and financially. In nineteenth-century Yorùbáland, owning slaves was an integral part of this status. See Karen Barber, ‘How Man Makes God in West Africa: Yoruba Attitudes Toward the Orisha’, Africa, 51, no. 3 (1981), 724–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 26.
    E. A. Oroge, ‘The Institution of Slavery in Yorubaland, with a Particular Reference to the Nineteenth Century’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Birmingham, University of Birmingham, 1971, vii.Google Scholar
  35. 27.
    For example, see John Mason, Orin Òrì.sà, and Kamari Maxine Clarke, Mapping Yorùba Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 28.
    Láoyè I, Tìmì of Ėdė, ‘Yoruba Drums’, Odu, no. 7 (1959), 5–12.Google Scholar
  37. 29.
    To ‘keep Sàngó’ is to own a receptacle in which the orisà ‘lives’. The devotee ‘feeds’ it with sacrificial offerings. Sàngó is closely associated with the bàta, which adds to the poignancy of Ayándo`kun’s narrative.Google Scholar
  38. 30.
    Personal communication, Erìn-Osun, 16 August 2001.Google Scholar
  39. 31.
    Debra Klein, Yorùbá Bàtá Goes Global (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), 38–44.Google Scholar
  40. 32.
    Little, if anything, has been written about the religious oppression of orisà devotees in twentieth-century and contemporary Nigeria. Prevalent contemporary priest-authors such as’ Wándé Abímbólá, Diedre Bádéjo, Judith Gleason, Robert Farris Thompson and Susanne Wenger tend to promote the strengths of Orisà Devotion rather than describe the cultural oppression experienced by devotees which I have observed and been told about in the course of my fieldwork.Google Scholar
  41. 33.
    The “niña Zoila case”, which was the investigation into the kidnapping, murder and heart extraction of 20-month old Zoila Díaz in 1904, was blamed on African ritual practitioners. The authorities responded with brutal reprisals in an effort to cleanse the nation of African savagery. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, several practitioners were imprisoned and executed by the authorities. In response to years of inflammatory media reporting, mob violence escalated and peaked in Matanzas in 1919 with the lynching of six presumed sorcerers. This violent racist and religious persecution resonated in Cuba for decades to come. See Aline Helg, Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886–1912 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 108–116, andGoogle Scholar
  42. 33a.
    Stephan Palmié, Wizards and Scientists: Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 210–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 34.
    See María Teresa Vélez, Drumming for the Gods: The Life and Times of Felipe Garcia Villamil, Santero, Palero and Abukuá (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), andGoogle Scholar
  44. 34a.
    Katherine J. Hagedorn, Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santería (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  45. 35.
    The term periodo especial refers to a temporary peacetime policy instigated on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union (Perestroika) in 1990. With the withdrawal of the Soviet Union’s economic support of Cuba and the recession in Cuba that followed, ordinary Cubans have suffered devastating material deprivation ever since (as shockingly portrayed in Hagedorn, Divine Utterances and Palmié, Wizards and Scientists).Google Scholar
  46. 36.
    The first Cuban constitution was written in 1976 and Cuba was declared an atheist state. Chapter I, article 8 and chapter VII, article 55 of the 1992 Cuban Constitution guarantee religious freedom and equality in Cuba.Google Scholar
  47. 37.
    See Hagedorn, Divine Utterances, 9.Google Scholar
  48. 38.
    Personal communication, Havana, April 2004. Gonzalez, who was in his seventies at the time he recounted this story, was not specific about the time frame of this episode, though he appeared to be reminiscing about the distant yet contemporary past, claiming insider knowledge of the event.Google Scholar
  49. 39.
    Ifá is a branch of orisha religion led by divining priests called babaláwo (babalaos in Cuba). While Ifá practice is in fact interconnected with orisha worship, in Cuba there is a power struggle and political split between oricha priests and babalaos. Some Cuban ilés [ritual families] interlock Ocha practice and Ifá in a similarly cooperative manner to current Nigeria, whereas in the extreme, some devotees regard the different strands of Ifá and Ocha as different religions. See David Brown, Santería Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 148–151.Google Scholar
  50. 40.
    Sàngódáre Àjàlá Gbádégesin and Susanne Wenger, ‘Ajala, Sangodare Gbadegesin’, in Character is Beauty: Redefining Yoruba Culture and Identity, Iwalewa-Haus, 1981–1986, ed. Femi Abodunrin, Olu Obafemi and Wole Ogundele (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2001), 164 (added emphasis).Google Scholar
  51. 41.
    Personal communication, Osogbo, April 2002.Google Scholar
  52. 42.
    See Luis Nicolau Parés, ‘The “Nagôization” Process in Bahian Candomblé’, in The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, ed. Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 185–208; andGoogle Scholar
  53. 42a.
    Lorand J. Matory, Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 115–148.Google Scholar
  54. 43.
    Personal communication, Acosta, Matanzas, September 2004.Google Scholar
  55. 44.
    The Aná drumming cult is a brotherhood which gives entry only through secret initiations. The word Aná derives from the Yorùbá A yàn, which is determined both by lineage and initiation.Google Scholar
  56. 45.
    The word invento can be literally translated as ‘invention’, but is more accurately interpreted as a pejorative noun for a ritual or musical innovation.Google Scholar
  57. 46.
    Kristina Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Religious Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007), 65–70, andGoogle Scholar
  58. 46a.
    David Brown, Santería Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 128–130.Google Scholar
  59. 47.
    Personal communication, Havana, 6 September 2004.Google Scholar
  60. 48.
    Personal communication, London, March 2007.Google Scholar
  61. 49.
    Leading scholars in this field have been William Bascom and’ Wándé Abímb.olá.Google Scholar
  62. 50.
    For example, see Warner-Lewis, Trinidad Yoruba; Kólá Abímbólá, Yorùbá Culture; ‘Wándé Abímbólá, Ifá Will Mend Our Broken World: Thoughts on Yoruba Religion and Culture in Africa and the Diaspora, interviews with an introduction by Ivor Miller (Roxbury, MA: Aim Books, 1997); Matory, Black Atlantic Religion; Clarke, Mapping Yoruba Networks; and Kristina Wirtz, ‘“Where Obscurity is a Virtue”: The Mystique of Unintelligibility in Santería Ritual’, Language and Communication, 25, no. 4 (2005), 351–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 51.
    See’ Wándé Abímbólá, Ifá Will Mend Our Broken World, 131–142; and Robert Farris Thompson, Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas (Munich: Prestel, 1993), 169–170.Google Scholar
  64. 52.
    Philip Tagg, ‘Open Letter About “Black Music”, “Afro-American Music” and “European Music”’, Popular Music, 8, no. 3 (1989), 285–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 53.
    Kofi Agawu, Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions (New York: Routledge, 2003).Google Scholar
  66. 54.
    Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 74.Google Scholar
  67. 55.
    Matory, Black Atlantic Religion, 71.Google Scholar
  68. 56.
    Vincent (Villepastour), ‘Bata Conversations’, 217–268.Google Scholar
  69. 57.
    ’Wándé Abímbólá, ‘Continuity and Change in the Verbal, Artistic, Ritualistic, and Performance Traditions of Ifa Divination’, in Insight and Artistry in African Divination, ed. John Pemberton III (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), 179.Google Scholar
  70. 58.
    Vincent (Villepastour), ‘Bata Conversations’, 198–203.Google Scholar
  71. 59.
    ’Wándé Abímbólá, Ifá Will Mend Our Broken World, 135.Google Scholar
  72. 60.
    Klein, ‘Yorùbá Bàtá’.Google Scholar
  73. 61.
    Ibid., 19–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

Personalised recommendations