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Batá Añá drums, the music of the Orishas

Drums añá

The low and uninterrupted touch says that there is ceremony, that there is a party, that there are devotees.

A rhythm well known to many Cubans is that of the batá drums, an instrument always present in Yoruba rituals.

It is easy to associate the strong and rhythmic sound with white clothes, with dancing, with revelry… and with magic.

El set of batá drums is inseparable, it is among the most significant instrumental groupings of Afro-Cuban culture and the Santeria, are samples of the syncretism and transculturation present in the Creole roots of this Island of myths and mixtures.

It is made up of three direct hitting membranophones with a wooden box in the shape of an hourglass.

Its two membranes have different diameters, are percussed in play and are tightened by a ring and tensioned by leather or hemp straps or braces.

This system is tied to the body of the drum by another system of transverse bands that surround the central region of the box.

Batá Añá, sacred drums

When the drums are profane they are called Ilú, but when they are consecrated they are known as Añá.

For drums to be considered Añá, not only must they meet a series of requirements, such as the use of certain materials in their manufacture, but their purpose, beyond meeting musical standards, is to bring the Orishas to earth.

The elders say that these drums "are not played" but rather "speak" directly to the deities, a mystical and ancestral language of men with the Gods, the touch is an invitation to the Orishas.

When the drum sounds, it establishes a direct connection with the deities, they praise and give thanks, its rhythm is a prayer for them to bring health and prosperity to those of us who live on the earthly plane.

As a sacred instrument, to play the batá drums, the "bataleros" must possess the wisdom and knowledge that this entails, but above all the respect to follow the religious rules of this ritual and the spirituality necessary to establish that communication and connection with the supernatural world.

In this trilogy of drums, each one receives a name and a meaning within the religious language that establish the ceremonies (from larger to smaller size) are called: Iyá (Talking drum), Itótele (medium) and Okónkolo (Small). 

DrumFunctions in the drum family:
Okónkolo or OmeléPlay a melody that repeats rhythmically several times while the other two drums converse.
itóteleIt is the receiver of the language while the drum major speaks with the Orishas.
Iyá (mother)Drum major, symbol of great strength and union with nature and the Orishas.

Batá drums, folk music

As we already explained, the batá drums set It is made up of three drums, one smaller than the other, to which an acheré is added, and they are typical instruments of Cuban folkloric-popular practice.

Their music is the sound of respect and devotion for the Orisha deities.

In religious ceremonies, touches of batá drums invocations for each orisha.

This follows a pre-established ritual for the songs and dances that are performed during the religious celebration of the Oru de Eyá Aranlá and Iban Baló or in the funeral rites.

Touch of Drums to the Orishas

The batá drumsAccording to connoisseurs, they are played in different ways depending on the ceremony and the orisha for which it is intended.

The rhythmic touches go according to the qualities, individualities and behaviors of each Afro-Cuban deity.

And if the batá drums accompañaIn the singing, it will be the singer who begins, and the drums are incorporated simultaneously or staggered, according to the touch or the ritual for the oricha.

Learn more about the drum and its power in the Osha:

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